Robotics 101

Reflections from the GearHeadz

The Lawrence High School “Gearheadz” robotics team ended the year with a boom at the 16th annual Battlecry at WPI in Worcester! We didn’t actually end with a boom due to some errors here and there; but there was no other way we could’ve ended it. Many of us learned a couple of things and witnessed a team that was able to work around any problem. For any of the members that did not attend (which was a good amount of you guys ~~), Battlecry was a post-season competition and every team goes into the elimination rounds. Battlecry also created the opportunity for new drivers to get a feel for the adrenaline of a competition. But it wasn’t just the drivers starting out to do some different; everybody did something different or experienced something new.

One thing that may have been a problem was the fact that the drive team did not have an adult mentor guiding them. However, when we interviewed them, it didn’t seem to be a problem. This time, there was a mix of experienced drivers, who were Miguel Dejesus (2 years), Cristian Welcome (1 year), Saul Delacruz (2 years) along with new drivers, who were Zael Leon, Pedro Lantigua, and Emmanuel Solano. The newbies described their first experience as initially being scary but then becoming more relaxed when they went out into a match, which is understandable as a first time is always scary. Specifically, Zael thought ‘oh my god’… which is also understandable. The experienced drivers felt no different without a mentor. I don’t know about Elson, but I was surprised when I heard this as I expected the team to be more stressed. After hearing these thoughts, I realized that the drivers were working as if they had a mentor the entire time. Since the team did not have a mentor, someone had to take charge correct? Many of the other drivers thought that Miguel and Cristian helped out a lot. However, Saul said that everyone knew what to do so there really wasn’t a reason for someone to take charge.

At Battlecry, they could’ve seen the importance of a mentor in play and so we asked them about that. Miguel noted that a mentor is useful in debating issues to make the final decision. However, he and other drivers said that a mentor is not necessary for experienced people but necessary for starters. Some also said that a mentor is necessary for both experienced and new people. Honestly, I (Monica) did not realize that a mentor was missing until I was told so by me (Elson). The drivers did a dazzling job both on Saturday and Sunday! It seemed like they thought the same as well!

Not only did we interview team members, we also interviewed mentors. One was Art Rousmaniere, our main mentor (so to say). The other mentor was Linette Heredia, a teacher at MST and academic team leader. These two saw that the mentorless team was doing fabulous. It seems that they were even doing better since Art stated that without a mentor, the drive team became more involved and listened to themselves other than a mentor. Ms. Heredia pointed out that they weren’t yelling at each other, which was good. She also acknowledged the fact that the drivers were alternating which gives them an opportunity to experience both the buttons and driving. With this, one could also see that the drive team was organized in who would be driving when without any arguments. Congrats, drive team! You impressed the mentors!

Just like we asked the drivers the importance of a mentor, we asked the mentors the same. Art went into detail in his response to this question. He said that a mentor is extremely important because their role is to show “kids a never seen before world.” He added that mentors are “part of the puzzle.” I (Monica) agree because you need some sort of guidance when you start something new; you cannot go in blind and hesitant. Ms. Heredia had the same idea and thought a mentor to be valuable. Mentors teach you what it’s like, not only in just engineering, but also in any career is what she told us. She mentioned that your mentors can become your friends as they learn about your work habits and help you improve while being silly with you! Ms. Heredia pointed out a specific mentor, Joann, who is motherly towards all of us and is “always feeding you guys!” If you take the two ideas together, a mentor is basically a friend, someone to teach you about the wrong while also letting (maybe even wanting) you do something independently.

To be taught the wrong, the wrong has to be known. So we asked any interviewees about possible improvements in robotics. We not only asked the drivers and mentors but other members like Anthony Calderon and Charvady Hak. At the end of the interviews, we saw that people said things that fit under the same categories, like leadership, programming, preparation, and involvement. Miguel suggested that if there were to be leaders that they should meet on days other than regular meetings. Heredia said that more students (along with a leader) in the fundraising team would be helpful due to the lack of fundraising this year. With programming, two students wanted to learn more about it. Anthony Calderon wanted to program autonomous; Art mentioned wanting this as well. Saul wanted to learn Java. Ms. Heredia requested that we find a more consistent programming mentor. That would make the programming goals easier to reach. There were comments made on preparation as Pedro and Art wanted more drive time to become better. Involvement seemed to be a prominent idea between members. Since there isn’t much to do in the beginning, Miguel wanted more planned projects in the beginning. Zael pointed out that if people were to focus on the task at hand, there would be much improvements. Anthony asked that whoever missed meetings to be informed through a group email (some people don’t have Facebook.) Another goal he had for next year is going to the pits more often. There were also comments that went under the etcetera category. Art was looking for new technology and a Chairman’s Award… along with a horn. Everybody loves a horn, right? Ms. Heredia was looking for a lot more team spirit during competitions. She noticed that we are able to have fun amongst ourselves, but we don’t show it out in public. A more confident group is what she is asking for. Oh, and Charvady wants her own cape. :-) Anthony wanted hamburgers AND pizza. We (other than Monica) are all getting tired of that pizza. (Elson agrees somewhat.)

The 2014–2015 year for the robotics team has been amazing. We achieved a lot this season. Getting picked for an alliance, finishing off 15th (or so) place, and gaining a lot of new members!! Those new members were welcomed with open arms and are now part of the robotics family. However, the year is coming to a close and more newbies are to be welcomed while members return to work twice as hard! We should all be happy about the progress we have made this year because the Lawrence High Robotics Team, 1289, Gearheadz, have much to look forward to and much to improve on in the next year.

Blog post originally written by Monica Sim & Elson Vazquez on June 15, 2015