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Sandburg’s Robotics team hoping to be first at FIRST

Mathew Palubin, Staff Writer

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The 21st century has brought a lot of cool new technologies such as smartphones, crazy powerful computers and drones to name a few. Schools are trying to keep up with these new inventions with different classes and clubs. Carl Sandburg is one of the many high schools who has a Robotics team.

Robotics team is a fun and exciting club that allows students to learn all about how robots work. The team is also challenged to build a robot that can do something that FIRST, the organization that runs the robotics competition, assigns. Sandburg has been in this competition for awhile. The team’s head coach, Mr. Brewczynski, said, “This will be our 8th year competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition.”

Mr. Brewczynski is a math and computer science teacher at Sandburg. He has been on the team for three years and this is his first year as the head coach.

The first robotics competition is a large event held downtown at UIC. Every year, the robots are assigned a different task from FIRST and are only given a small time frame to create the robot. The team can be assigned anything from a robot that picks up boxes to a robot who shoots balls or throws frisbees into a box.

Brewczynski said, “We have six weeks to build the robot and then approximately two months to perfect the details and prepare for the competition.”

It is critical for the Robotics team to build a working basic robot in the first six weeks so that they are ready for what FIRST assigns them to do. Once FIRST gives the job, the team only has two months to make the design work for that task. The team won’t find out what the robot needs until November.

Sandburg is one of many schools that compete in the FIRST competition. Brew said, “We compete with schools throughout the Midwest, the rest of the US, and some international teams.”

This can be challenging for Sandburg’s students, since these schools are more experienced and get more funding. Last year, the team placed 29th in the competition with a team mostly made up of freshman. The year before, however, the team placed 12th with a more experienced senior team.

Junior Rose Noonan is a returning student to the Sandburg’s Robotics club. This is her second year on the team. Her job on the team is to work on the robot’s drive train and electronics board. Noonan said, she enjoys the club because it “offers me an opportunity to use and develop skills that are not offered in a traditional class setting.”

Students at Sandburg can learn a lot from the Robotics team if they have any interest in any field of technology.
When asked about what the students are taught, Brew said, “We teach students how to design, build, and program a robot that can perform a given task.”

The Robotics team is constantly challenging students. The team is building this robot from scratch, which means there can be a lot of malfunctions with the robot whether it be mechanical or in the code. It makes sense that Rose said the best part of the club is “when the robot works.”

This year, the team will need to take apart and try to reuse the parts from last year’s robot. If they cannot reuse all the parts, they will have to fundraise. According to Rose, “raising money” is the hardest thing about the club.

The Sandburg Robotics team has a lot to do this year to win the FIRST competition. However, even if they don’t win, these students have been given important skills that they will be able to use in the real world.

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Sandburg’s Robotics team hoping to be first at FIRST