The 18 students meet up after school at least twice a week and pore through the robot-building manuals and rulebooks, manipulating wires and pieces of metal to work just right so that the robots will respond to the students’ commands.
Practices can run late, and often the students don’t leave school until 9:30 at night, they said.
This is the commitment it takes to qualify and contend in an international robotics competition, students say, and they have a lot of competition this year.
Robotics is a trend
Pope joins a number of Cobb County high schools that already have robotics teams.
Walton, Kell, North Cobb, Kennesaw Mountain, Wheeler and Lassiter high schools all have their own robotics teams.
The competitive, intense programs attract highly skilled students with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math activities, and train them to work as a team designing and constructing robots and competing in international competitions.
The year-round extracurricular has provided students who aren’t athletically or musically inclined to shine in their own way, said Lisa Hatch, a parent adviser of the Pope team.
She helped to start the group last spring, as there was a lot of interest at Pope for a club to build competitive robots.
The group quickly grew to 18 members, 13 boys and five girls, and has been diligently applying for grants, and scholarships and working with the community to spread their excitement about robotics.
Young team, but big accomplishments
The students have already won a Women In Technology Grant for $3,000, General Electric awarded the team a $6,000 grant, and other local businesses and community members have pitched in more than $6,000.
It costs, on average, between $4,000 and $5,000 to build a competition robot, Hatch said.
This fall, Pope students have presented community events where Scout groups and students from Dodgen and Hightower middle schools have been encouraged to participate in STEM activities like robotics.
“Seeing the younger generation excited about STEM is what makes robotics really enjoyable,” said Pope senior Stephanie Nash.
She, as well as many of her teammates, plan to seek engineering degrees after high school. The robotics teams are breeding grounds for engineers.
“Robotics is a perfect opportunity for me to learn skills I would need for an engineering job,” said student Eashan Ahuja.
Connor Van Hosen, a junior, joined the robotics team last spring because he enjoys playing with Legos.
“I’ve always liked building things,” he said.
Hosen said he has been frequently reading through the rule book, which is “as thick as an old Bible,” getting ready for competition season to start in January.
Competition is intense
The group will travel to the campus of Georgia Tech on Jan. 4, where they, along with other high schoolers from across the world, will learn what the theme of the 2014 First Robotics Competition will be.
High school students in Georgia, Washington D.C. and Sydney, Australia will then work to design a robot in six weeks that will compete at local, regional, statewide, national and international competitions.
During competition season, the students will meet every night from 6:30 to at least 9:30 p.m., Hosen said.
The Peachtree Regional competition is in Atlanta in March, and the Pope team hopes to be there.
Last year the challenge was to build a robot that was to shoot flying discs into goals and then climb a pyramid structure, Hatch said.
The Pope High team is excited.
They have been training with Wheeler High School’s robotics team, and have learned some tricks of the trade.
Students said they have learned to brainstorm, set goals and work as a team toward a common goal, skills they didn’t necessarily get to practice during school hours.
“It’s a great real-world opportunity,” said Davis Otem, a member of the team.