If you could combine demolition derby and basketball you would have an interesting game. If you played it with robots you could call it Aerial Assist. If you want to be impressed by some high school students you could check out this STEM Journals Special about Westwood Robotics Team and see what they discovered about themselves during their 2014 season of FIRST Robotics Competition. They learned what it means to collaborate, problem solve and persist. Along the way team 2478 became a family – a family of scientists.
Tom Saxon, a team mentor for Westwood Robotics, acknowledged that the students came to the program as “paper thinkers.” They had little or no knowledge of design or building. Mentor Scott Blevins was impressed with how quickly the kids picked up new skills. When students learn to build they can see the application of math and science applied to everyday life.
The FIRST Robotics Competition challenge was to build a robot that could travel through an opposing team of robots, carry, pass, catch and shoot a two foot diameter ball into a goal. The design had to be sophisticated; both simple and reliable. The task required dedication. Students and mentors worked every day after school until early evening, with two late nights, and every Saturday. The team had six weeks to design, build and program the robots.
The Arizona Regional Competition took place at Hamilton High School in Chandler, Az. During the practice rounds the robot had problems, but he team came together. It was trial and error, monitor and adjust. For a first year team they did well and finished in the top 12.
The Las Vegas Regional Competition was stronger that the Arizona Regional. The action on the field was more aggressive. The driving was harder hitting. The final match was suspenseful and exciting. With the win Westwood team 2478 realized a dream and knew their dedication and hard work had paid off.
Team 2478 advanced to the World Championships but did not move past the Division Level.
As students and their mentors reflected on the 2014 season, the team saw their greater calling as letting other people catch a sense of what they now know. Blevins and Saxon hope the program can get kids excited about education and learning.
For many of the students the team experience confirmed their career path. For others it opened their minds to new possibilities. But for all, it was a life changing experience. An experience they hope to have again next year.