MHS Robotics

For now, several months removed from the start of the regular season, Messalonskee Robotics Club co-captain Caleb Sadler is fine with 12 students on the team.

Come January, though, when robotics teams in the United States and around the world begin the process of building their new robot, manpower becomes a much greater concern.

“Many teams tend to have many more members [than we do], some of the bigger ones are closer to 40 or so, although that may be a little large,” Sadler said.  “What we have now for members … we have plenty of people, for sure. However, mainly during build season, we could use a few more members to work on different components of the robot.”

In pursuit of those greater numbers, the Robotics Club used the start of the school year’s first Student of the Month assembly to make a pitch for new recruits, using a video presentation to describe what they do and the various roles available for members of the team.

What the club did late last month was host its annual Robotics Spirit Competition, an event that draws dozens of teams from around the state and New England to promote the activity and provide an opportunity for students to put their robots into action.

For Messalonskee students, that meant getting Stretch Armstrong in competition mode again. Stretch is the robot the team built last year, the one that replaced Havoc, Messalonskee’s robot for the 2018 regular season.

The name of next year’s robot has yet to be determined. Traditionally, club members wait to see the nature of the competition, so they can determine a moniker that is appropriate to the challenge their robot will be encountering. FIRST, the organization that runs the robotics competition, releases the specifications of each year’s contest in January.

Until January arrives, the Messalonskee team spends most of its time promoting what it does, recruiting new members, and raising funds for the expenses ahead, most notably the funds needed for travel and robot materials.

Sadler said a typical fundraising goal would be $60,000. This would be particularly true if the team qualifies to compete at the international championships, which for Messalonskee would be at the TCF Center, formerly the Cobo Center, in Detroit – because of the tremendous growth in the number of competitors, FIRST now has two championship sites – Houston is the other one for 2020.

Although Messalonskee didn’t qualify for the international meet last year, the club has achieved the feat several times in its history, so Sadler sees getting to Detroit as a realistic objective.

“It is definitely a reachable goal,” he said. “It will kind of play out during the season if it is reachable or not.”

In the meantime, team members stay busy, even though the regular season is months away. In the robotics world, students have no shortage of duties and responsibilities in which to be involved.

“I do like the building [the robot],” Messalonskee sophomore Rebekah Letourneau said, “but I think I get more joy at fundraising.”

As for freshman Deanndra Poulliot, the fun has nothing to do with any specific task or responsibility. It’s more about the camaraderie.

“So, for me,” she said, “I haven’t been here so long, but my favorite part has been the social component of it.”

written by Colin Hickey

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