Robotics team wins big
by Hannah Morgan
November 13, 2013 12:22 AM | 2456 views | 0 0 comments | 25 25 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Wheeler High School’s Robotics Team won top honors at the FIRST Technology Challenge Qualifier Competition earlier this month at the Milton Center in Alpharetta, as it clinched the INSPIRE AWARD. At center is Matthew Zacune, a club co-president, with Jerry Vanim-Botting and Naim Vasaya. Sergio Corvalan advises the team.
Wheeler High School’s Robotics Team won top honors at the FIRST Technology Challenge Qualifier Competition earlier this month at the Milton Center in Alpharetta, as it clinched the INSPIRE AWARD. At center is Matthew Zacune, a club co-president, with Jerry Vanim-Botting and Naim Vasaya. Sergio Corvalan advises the team.
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Front row from left, Aaron Nielsen, Samantha Weinberg, Naim Vasaya, Taylor Adams, Robert Taylor and Josh Valdez. Middle row from left is Tori Kraj, Matthew Zacune, Alex Nussey, Alex Condouriotis, Jerry Vanim-Botting, Spencer Cummings and Nathan Su. Top row from left, Griffin Puch, Yuanhan Pan, Mike Chang, Sergio Corvalan (Teacher Mentor), Grace Willhoite and Matthew Sklar.
Front row from left, Aaron Nielsen, Samantha Weinberg, Naim Vasaya, Taylor Adams, Robert Taylor and Josh Valdez. Middle row from left is Tori Kraj, Matthew Zacune, Alex Nussey, Alex Condouriotis, Jerry Vanim-Botting, Spencer Cummings and Nathan Su. Top row from left, Griffin Puch, Yuanhan Pan, Mike Chang, Sergio Corvalan (Teacher Mentor), Grace Willhoite and Matthew Sklar.
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Wheeler High School’s Robotics Team won top honors at the FIRST Technology Challenge Qualifier Competition earlier this month at the Milton Center in Alpharetta, as it clinched the INSPIRE AWARD.

The student-designed robot scored enough points to push the team high in the competition, but the team’s collaboration and teamwork awarded them the Design, Motivate and Think award, as the judges thought the students had the ability to inspire others with their enjoyment of working together on their robot.

“Winning isn’t everything,” said co-club president Alex Nussey.

The 17-year-old senior said it was great to be recognized as part of the community-at-large, and to help spread his team’s enthusiasm for robotics past their classroom.

The team has offered the participants a chance to grow not only in STEM and robotics knowledge, but in maturity as well, said club sponsor Sergio Corvalan.

The physics teacher has been involved with the club for six years.

“I have seen the club members grow from kids just entering high school to college students and professionals,” he said. “It is amazing to be able to see how these kids have the metamorphosis and slowly change to young adults.”

The team meets almost daily when they have competitions, and have stayed at school working as late as 9 p.m., Corvalan said.

“I wanted to learn more about engineering and robotics,” said 17-year-old Matthew Cacune, co-president of the club.

Junior Naim Vasaya said he enjoys the engineering aspect of robotics while working with the club. He was the team captain for the First Tech Challenge this year, and worked with his team mates for 12 weeks to prepare for competition.

Vasava’s team’s robot had to participate in a game called ‘block party,’ he said, and had to move around to collect as many 100 2-inch cubes scattered on the floor as it could, and to deposit them in hanging baskets. The robot also had to pull itself up on a bar as part of the competition.

The team of students work together to build, manipulate and experiment with robots.

“My favorite part of being coach is the joy of working with all my kids and brainstorming to find new ideas and solutions,” Corvalan said.

The robotics team beat out the high school’s band this year in the number of student members, with 129, Nussey said, and is the biggest club at the school.

Club Sponsor and Wheeler physics and robotics teacher Julia Barry said winning competitions isn’t the best thing about being part of the club.

“The students come in awkward and shy and come out … still awkward but confident and knowledgeable,” she said, adding that the support from the parents, teachers and mentors help to ensure the team’s success at competitions as well as after they graduate from high school.

The next step for the team is to prepare for the state competition and the regional competition and hopefully the world championship, Corvalan said.

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