Founded in 2009, the Arcadia High Robotics Club adheres to a curriculum that integrates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). While students put their brains to the test, they also gain another essential thing: friendship.
“The club is a creative and technological outlet for me,” senior Cole Haney said. “It lets me turn my hobby of tinkering and designing into a possible career path while having fun. It’s also a makeshift family during the year.”
Senior Andrew Nally echoes Haney’s sentiments:
“Best friends that I’ve met in high school have come from the club, and it’s been an excellent experience socially. I have much more of an interest in engineer and design than I would have otherwise,” he said.
The most important event for club members is a robust yearly challenge put on by the International FIRST (For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Organization that requires critical thinking, collaborative problem solving and holistic skill-building.
The goal is to construct a customized and semi-autonomous industrial-sized robot using coding and software. Examples are robots that can balance beams, score sports balls, and carry objects while moving them up, down, or sideways.
“The school has an engineering class,” explained Coach Matthew Hankins, “but the Robotics Club is what gives the students the tools to create a robot that competes.”
After months of challenging themselves, the teen’s skills are put to the test in March, as they compete for the top tier (Einstein Level) of the contest, also referred to as “the games.” FIRST announces the yearly theme and provides kits with supplies to the clubs. It’s up to the members to brainstorm and create the most stellar robot possible.
What makes the games so exhilarating and unique is the fusion of sports with science and technology. Held in large gymnasiums, spectators get swept up in the excitement of watching the robots as an announcer fuels the audience’s adrenaline with a play-by play. This year’s theme, “Rapid React,” is based on reimagining the future of safe, high-speed travel and lightning-fast deliveries.
In their race to the top, Arcadia club members first compete in the two regionals held every year: The Arizona North Regional at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and the Arizona West Regional at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale.
“If students win those rounds, they go on to the semifinals. World Competitions will be held in Houston this year. Those winners go on to the Einstein rounds. We’ve been close a few times, almost making it to the semifinals but haven’t moved past it…yet,” Hankins said.
While creating winning teams is important to Hankins, something more profound inspires him. “The camaraderie of the team is what brings me back to coach every year,” he said. “Robots are very impressive, but I think professionalism and networking and long-lasting friendships are what it’s really about.”
2012: Finalist Gracious Professionalism
2013: Judges’ Award
2015: Dean’s List Finalists
2016: Gracious Professionalism
2018: Imagery and Industrial Design
2019: Excellence in Engineering