Robotics Club Feature

Maddy Avni

If you venture down Ward Melville’s art hallway after school, it always behooves you to watch your surroundings. If you hear a loud buzzing emanating from the floor, you’d best move out of the way, lest you collide with the school’s resident robot. Squat, wide, and powerful, the robot roams the area outside the technology lab each week, undergoing testing and performing figure eights and 180s. Often surrounded by delighted onlookers, it almost seems more like a pet than a machine. This lovable bot is the creation of none other than the school’s very own Robotics Club.


The Robotics Club is led by Mr. Rogers, who teaches many tech education classes in the school. The club functions as a natural extension of these classes, utilizing concepts from such programs as Robotics, Mechatronics, and Automotive Engineering to create a finished product. “It’s a natural stepping stone to our classes because it involves engineering and STEM research, which allows the kids to put what they learn into action,” said Mr. Rogers in an interview. “If you want to put what you’ve learned into action, robotics is definitely a way to do it.” However, anyone is welcome to join regardless of technological experience.


Although Mr. Rogers is the club’s advisor, he made it clear that the club’s members are its driving force. “It’s very simple. In the robotics club, I want them to be in charge. I’m the advisor, I’m just here to step in if they need my help, but I want the kids themselves to be the members of the team, to run it. So we find out what needs to get done and we make a plan, and hopefully we accomplish it,” he said. “Robotics is a lot of fun, and it’s a lot of work.” This statement rings true with Elizabeth Orlando, a tenth grade member of Robotics Club.  “Mr. Rogers is really energetic, and he’s always there joking around, but we get work done. He makes it fun,” she said during an interview. The club has worked especially hard this year in preparation for their yearly robotics contest.


This year, the Robotics Club attended the FIRST Robotics Competition for the first time. For the previous ten years, the club had attended a competition called Bot Ball and done well, but FIRST Robotics is far larger and more competitive. The atmospheres of the two tournaments are also worlds away from each other. “It was our first year doing [First Robotics], reported Mr. Rodgers. “It’s ginormous compared to Bot Ball. It’s 100 times the size, 100 times the competitors, the robots are 100 times bigger. It’s just a completely different beast.” However, the team’s competitors were welcoming and helpful in spite of the rivalry. “It was very cool. It seemed like there was a lot of camaraderie between the different teams. It was a very different environment where everybody wanted to come out and help you if you needed help, and as a rookie team, we certainly needed help, and we really appreciated all of our competition that came in and helped us.”


“The competition was wild,” said tenth grade member Julia Tsybysheva. “It was like attending homecoming at Ward Melville, only with more people and less sports but a lot more screaming. There’s so much competitive atmosphere, and yet everyone is ready to help out and share materials.” Elizabeth was quick to corroborate the excitement that accompanied the contest. “I didn’t think it would feel as exciting as it did. It’s like a sport, you get that rush, like, of whether or not it’s going to work and when it does you just feel so relieved.” Overall, FIRST Robotics was a great learning experience for the robotics team, who seem to have enjoyed it. Congratulations to the Robotics Club on their participation in the event.