Club of the Month: January

Andrew Gazelka and Isaac Wenc learn programming.

Lucas Pham


The high school’s Robotics team is December’s edition of Club of the Month (don’t ask).  I spoke with Robotics captains Grant Silewski, Poorva Halbe, and Josie Schmitt to learn more about the club.

The Eyrie: What do you do in Robotics?  How often do you compete?

Silewski: In Robotics, we are given a challenge every year.  We are given it in January, and we have six weeks to build a robot that does said challenge.  After that, we compete in multiple competitions across the state and possibly in Detroit.

Halbe: Competition-wise, we usually have two regionals, where teams across many states come to one location to compete in a series of qualification matches and an elimination bracket.

E: How did each of you get into Robotics?

Si: My older brother was in the high school program, so then I joined the middle school program and have been in it ever since.

H: Josie and I actually have a joint story here.  When I was in elementary school, I did a science fair project on Lego Mindstorms, which is what the elementary program, First Lego League, uses.  Josie’s dad was a science fair judge for my project, and he saw it, thought it was cool, and found out about FLL.  Josie joined FLL, and I joined her in middle school and joined the same team.

E: Tell me a bit about the robots you’ve built in the past.

Si: Normally, we build a robot that does some sort of challenge.  In the past, we’ve built robots that shot a ball into a high goal, stacked totes atop one another, and climbed a pyramid.

H: All of the challenges have their own theme.  Last year’s was steampunk-themed.  The year before that, it was medieval-themed.  This year, we’ve gotten a hint for the theme, and so far it seems to be some sort of video game.

E: What has your most memorable experience been in Robotics thus far?

H: Two years ago, we made it farther into the competition than we ever had before.  We made it to WC after winning one regional and winning Engineering Inspiration.  There, we made it to divisional finals, which meant we were competing with the best teams in the world.

E: Why do you personally like building robots and being in Robotics?
Si: It’s a lot of fun.  You’re locked in a room with fifteen people for six weeks [laughs].  Not really.

Schmitt: You get really close to everybody and get a sense of camaraderie.

Si: You’re doing a lot of real-world applications.  You get to learn skills, talk to companies, outsource parts to them.  You work in an environment similar to how a job would be.  And, of course, you get to compete afterwards, which is always fun.

H: My favorite part about Robotics is that you get hands-on and get to know about all of the different tools you use.  There are hundreds, even thousands of options.  You get to do a lot of fun things.

Sc: I like the experience and the feeling of meeting a bunch of different people.  You get to learn a lot by working with a bunch of different tools.  It operates like a small business, so you actually get to prepare for going in the real world and getting a job.