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In-person and online: Robotics changes to a hybrid model

By Norah Shen and Pavana Upadhyaya Dec. 9, 2020

Senior Alex Chen and Freshman Daniel Xu meet in-person to build their robot before attending their robotics competitions. // Courtesy of Robotics

Due to distance learning, the school’s robotics teams—8404 Quixilver Robotics and 604 Quixilver Robotics—had to determine how to build robots virtually. The robotics teams are continuing to hold meetings, collaborate with teammates and attend competitions by implementing both in-person and virtual activities.

Every year, both teams compete at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) contests. However, the two teams have different schedules and plans. 8404 Quixilver has been competing in the FIRST Technology Challenge (FTC) since September, while 604 Quixilver will begin participating in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) in January of 2021.

In previous years, both teams would develop game strategies to complete challenges given at competition venues. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the competitions will no longer be held in person. After completing the game at a team member’s house, the competitors self-report their scores to the competition managers. To ensure that the results are accurate and credible, some competitions require teams to livestream their trials.

Senior Daniel Noronha, Treasurer of 8404 Quixilver, first joined the robotics team in seventh grade after watching the annual FTC demonstration at Bret Harte Middle School. He has been participating in robotics all throughout high school.

“Being on 8404 Quixilver has been a great journey. Not only have I learned a lot about robotics, but I have gained valuable interpersonal skills and improved my writing skills,” Noronha said.

However, Noronha explains that transitioning to online robotics has been difficult for his team. Instead of meeting after school in a classroom, the team needs to connect through video calls. As a result, team members found it challenging to teach newly recruited members and to collaborate with each other when building their robots.

Unlike 8404 Quixilver, the 604 Quixilver team has split their season into two portions: off-season, from August to December, and build-season, from January to February. During the off-season, the team meets for orientation and workshops, and during the build-season, the team meets every day after school to prepare for competitions.

“This season, we will be given the option of either designing our own game or participating in a skills challenge or an innovation challenge. A skills challenge would involve revamping last year’s robot to maximize scoring, and an innovation challenge would be to solve a problem occuring in the status quo by constructing robots,” Junior Anokhi Shah, Scouting Lead of 604 Quixilver, said.

The 8404 and 604 Quixilver teams have both noticed benefits from participating in competitions during distance learning. For instance, since members do not have to be physically present during meetings, scheduling is more convenient. The teams can also compete against students from a greater variety of locations since they do not have to travel long distances for competitions now.

Both Noronha and Shah have learned crucial skills through their involvement in robotics. Thus, they plan to utilize these skills in their future careers—Noronha plans on majoring in data science while Shah wants to major in computer science in college.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the school’s robotics teams were forced to develop new curriculums, organize online meetings and adapt to virtual competitions. Despite these changes, the teams’ goal remains the same: to spark interest in robotics amongst students.


About the Contributors

Norah Shen

Staff Writer

Norah Shen is a freshman at Leland High School and is a new staff writer. She likes to read, listen to music, and relentlessly tease her younger sister.

Pavana Upadhyaya

Staff Writer

Pavana Upadhyaya is a sophomore at Leland High School and is a staff writer. She likes to read nonfiction in her free time.

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