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Robotics returns from World Championships

Season leading up to Houston trip falls short

By Mekias Kebede

Robotics team setting up for the World championships at Houston

Robotics team setting up for the World championships at Houston

April 2017 was an important month for the Raisbeck Aviation High School Skunkworks Robotics team. After their unprecedented challenges they faced performing at districts, but hoped to make a comeback at the FIRST World Championship, a four-day robotics championship held annually in April in Houston.


Senior Xhelan Sylve, a long time Skunk, felt some nerves before the World Championships knowing the difficulties they have faced in preparation for big competitions.


“In the past we have been very successful, but this year we have had trouble because we have lost some key design and build mentors and that’s been a struggle, but going into worlds we are hoping to win in our field and go into Einstein,” said Sylve.


Prominent mentor Andy Bowlin has been coaching for several years for multiple robotics teams, is passionate about working with the Skunkworks team.


Bowlin believes the various mentors with backgrounds in electrical and mechanical engineering as well as business and administration are a key component to the success of their team. However, there are also many other factors in the success of the robot.


“The most important thing to me at least for the mentors being here helping the students is forming a connection and usually students will get stuck and they’ll might have an idea in their head but they won’t necessarily know how to get those ideas out of their head and into CAD and into a real world example,” said Bowlin.


The trip to Houston is no free ride, though. Josh Markovich, a member of the business team, is part of the outreach process to raise money by facilitating sponsorships and donations.

“Each student has to raise 1,500 dollars through business outreach and through the spaghetti dinner we host every year,” said Markovich.


The Skunks made some key changes to their designs in preparations for the World Championships based on their performance in past competitions.


“We have slightly modified the robot since the previous districts champs and our Idaho regional, to allow us to get on top again,” said Markovich.


Although winning is a great reward, the robotics team’s main goal is to have fun and enjoy the company of other robotics enthusiasts.


“Going into a world championship is more than just competing against a robot, there’s going to be almost 500 other teams from across the world,” said Andy Bowlin, “and going down there and meeting and talking to these other teams and getting their insights on how they build their robot and their strategies they came up with is more valuable  to me and has a bigger and better impact than competing.”


Tucker Bowlin, an active member of the robotics team wasn’t too happy about their performance at World’s. Compared to past performances this year worlds definitely stand out among the best but the Skunkworks team could’ve done better.


“This has been kind of an off year for our team, a lot of students here in this school have sort of an elitist culture and we have this mentality that we are better than everyone else. And this year we really learned that we aren’t invincible and that we actually have to work hard to do good,” said Bowlin.


Though they have had some struggles this season and graduating seniors will miss their time on the team, Sylve feels that the team will continue based on the experiences they’ve had.


“I think each year as seniors leave we pass our traits and our good habits down,” said Sylve, “and so I believe our culture will always remain the same.”


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