“A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body.” –
By Mary O’KEEFE
On Feb. 17, Ben Franklin would have been proud as members from local high school robotic teams met at the home of the Falkons to share a barbecue meal and fire up their competitive and cooperative spirits.
The teams have been working for six weeks on creating and building a robot that will play a type of basketball game for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition at the Long Beach Arena in March. For the barbecue on the CVHS campus, the night was a time to relax, have fun, eat and compete.
The Falkons, Crescenta Valley High School’s robotic team, along with La Cañada, St. Francis and Clark Magnet high schools robotic teams, has been preparing for the FIRST regional competition. Each year FIRST challenges high school teams to build a robot to compete in a specific game. The rules and game changes each year. This year the challenge is a version of robotic basketball. The teams all get six weeks from learning the specifics of the game to the “Stop Build Day.” Within that time they work to design, build and test their robot.
After taking time to meet each other and enjoy dinner, the four teams took to the floor of the CVHS cafeteria, which had been set up as a makeshift game arena, for a friendly competition.
About four years ago, Dr. Greg Neat, teacher and mentor for the Falkons, decided to bring all the local teams together for a meal and the chance to get to know each other, on the field and off.
“It wasn’t this big,” said CVHS graduate and robotics team member Sam Sampson of the first robotics barbecue. “There was a lot of uncertainty that first [barbecue] when we came together. We didn’t know if the [other teams] would show up.”
But the event was exactly what Sampson and his teammates had hoped for and a tradition was started.
After graduating, Sampson returned to the school to join other graduates and adults from the private sector to serve as mentors for the team.
“We saw [how] the competition was [preparing],” Sampson said. “And we learned to work together.”
For the FIRST competition, teams are paired with other teams to form alliances. They are encouraged to work together as well as to help other teams in what FIRST calls “gracious professionalism.”
“We are a community of engineers,” Sampson added.
Student Gilbert Airral is a member of Clark’s robotic team called the Circuit Breakers. For three years he has been the face behind the camera as he documented the team’s efforts from design to competition. This year he is directing instead of operating the camera.
“This year we are more scheduled,” Airral said. “We are almost finished with our robot.”
His cameras were rolling as the four school teams went from team building exercises in the CVHS quad to the cafeteria where a friendly competition began.
CVHS, Clark and LCHS are familiar with the robotic scrimmage but for St. Francis, the night was full of new experiences as this is the first year the school has had a robotic team.
“It is nice to see what other schools are doing,” said Johnny Romo, a sophomore at St. Francis. “Everyone is pretty positive.”
At the end of the night after the robots and their teams had finished their scrimmage, the Falkons took to the floor and danced. They were joined by members from other teams and did their best version of – what else? – the Robotic Shuffle.