Teaching real-world engineering skills

Robotics Club prepares students to code, compete, and collaborate

Caitlyn Schlaman, Staff Writer

Silicon Valley is the home of the modern innovator, and many students grow up surrounded by all this new technology.

At Branham, Project Lead the Way and engineering classes are filled, but some students want more. Robotics Club is those students, who spend their time after school building and coding actual robots that perform specific tasks.

Advisor Barbra Schremp said that the students learn real-world engineering principles by building their robot. “They’re solving problems and working with equipment,” Schremp said, adding that students get a chance to program and work with like-minded individuals. “They form friendships and get practice with interacting with each. At our tournaments, they take that and apply that on a broader scale.” 

Although, this learning experience is costly. Each year, Robotics spends thousands to compete, from the $100 fee to take part in the competition, and sometimes spends upward of $1,000 in parts for a single robot. The club relies on parent donations along with fundraisers and the occasional corporate sponsorship. Their biggest sponsor from the past few years has been Xilinx, a chip manufacturer.

This year, the club is made up of five teams. The teams first start planning out their designs in a notebook. Their next steps are to build and code their robots. Once complete, the club competes against, at most, 40 teams. The VEX Robotics tournaments can lead to a worldwide competition. In 2016, Branham Robotics has advanced to state. 

They’re solving problems and working with equipment, they form friendships and get practice with interacting with each. At our tournaments, they take that and apply that on a broader scale.

— Barbra Schremp

For the 2018 VEX Robotics season, club members built robots that can pick up objects and flip over octagonal discs. 

According to Robotics Club president William Gardner, a junior, the tournament first pits two randomly assigned teams against two others who will be competing in three games. Those with the most points move on to the next round, where they can choose their allies. The teams then compete in a series of knockout rounds until the final two vs. two round, where a winner is declared.

On the 23rd of September, the club participated in their first tournament of the season. 6374A (“Team A”) won 17th out of 23. The team scored well in the strength category, essentially being able to perform well. 6374B (“Team B”) placed 19th out of 23, also scoring high. The club has their next competition in November.