Since January, Chesapeake High School’s robotics team has been gearing up for this year’s FIRST Robotics competition season.
Leading up to the competitions is an intense six-week period of researching, designing, building and testing the robot.
This year, the theme is “Destination: Deep Space.” The playing field features two rockets, a cargo ship and a habitat. The objective is for teams to place hatch panels on the rockets and cargo ship, load cargo into both and then return to the habitat.
“We should do very well,” said the team’s general manager, Rodney Milley.
CHS’ robotics team has qualified for the district championship for seven consecutive years. The team has also made it eight times to the FIRST championship, where teams from around the world compete.
There are two rounds of district competitions, which are March 16-17 and March 23-24. After that, teams compete in the playoffs where they must win in both the quarterfinals and semifinals to make it to the finals, which take place at the end of April.
The competitions are streamed online, and the full schedule is available here.
Now in its 12th season, the robotics club has grown from 13 students to its current 31 members. Chesapeake’s team allows students from other schools to join, so this year’s team includes two students from North County High School.
“Their dedication to the team, their dedication to the game; they are all-in,” Milley said. “Their dedication is very inspiring and keeps bringing us mentors back.”
Kate O’Sullivan, a senior, said she considers the robotics team to be her second family because of the amount of time members spend together. By the end of the season, Milley estimates the team logs collective 12,000 hours between the 31 teammates.
“We work together hundreds of hours during the season, and the fact that we are all still so close after a highly stressful season is a miracle,” O’Sullivan said. “It shows the strength of the bond people create on this team, and how much we all care about both each other and the engineering cause.”
Trent Long, a junior, said he enjoys robotics because it allows him to learn things “a typical high schooler” wouldn’t learn.
“This team is helping me prepare for the future by teaching me how to work with others and better understand the engineering process it takes to create something from just an idea,” Long said.
Though only in his first year as a freshman on the team, Evan Hilder said he appreciates the commitment from everyone involved and can already apply this knowledge toward his future.
“Being on robotics is preparing me for my future by providing a hands-on experience that will help me achieve my goal of graduating college and becoming an engineer,” Hilder said.
FIRST Robotics currently has $80 million in scholarship money available to students.
“They get real-world experience in the industry they want to go into,” Milley said. “It looks good on a resume to be a FIRST Robotics student and helps you get to the next level.”