Robotics Team Enjoys Revitalization and Success
This past season has been the most successful robotics season in Hopkins history despite several challenges the club faced.
Robotics is a club at Hopkins dedicated to designing and creating new robots. This past season has been the most successful robotics season in Hopkins history despite several challenges the club faced. Club head Josh Ip ’18 said, “Our advisor, Mr. Swan, left Hopkins last year, so we thought we’d have a rough start to the year, but Mr. Multunas came in full guns blazing, and has been an awesome coach ever since.”
Physics teacher and club advisor Christian Multunas said, “I was apprehensive when I first met with the student leaders and heard that attendance had historically been very low.” However, about twenty-fve people showed up on the frst day. During the frst meetings, the club heads, Josh Ip, Taylor Kendall, and Andrew Kindseth, let inexperienced members experiment with LEGO mindstorms to gain an insight into basic code, while the more experienced members worked with Arduino, a computer hardware and software coding platform.
Although every member of the club was learning, the Robotics heads knew it was time to start thinking about competitions. Multunas said, “In the past, the club had participated in the Trinity Firefghter Competition in which teams built a robot which could autonomously navigate a maze to fnd a candle somewhere in the middle and blow it out. However, the competition was rather small-scale and often conficted with the Science Olympiad competitions.”
This year, the robotics club decided to take up a challenge. Multunas said, “We tried out a new competition: the FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge, or FTC. This is a nationwide competition with much prestige; it is known and recognized by colleges across the country. We registered and started preparing for the competition in November. The problem was, other teams had already started working on their robot in August.”
The club knew that with the limited time they had, building this robot from scratch was not going to be an easy task. Multunas said, “The robot must be able to move both autonomously and through remote control, and it should be able to pick up small balls off the ground, shoot those balls into a hoop, push buttons on the side of the arena, and pick up a large exercise ball and lift it to a height of four feet, all while complying with size and material constraints.”
When it was time for the frst qualifying tournament, the club had no expectations. As the competition went on, the team only got better and ended up winning not only the judge’s award but also qualifed for the state tournament. Kendall said, “My favorite part of the club is actually on competition days. There is a very high amount of stress, but it is the best kind of stress - the kind that makes you sit down and pound out solid work. I go into overdrive on competition days, working to identify ways to give our robots every possible edge in the competition.
This big achievement was celebrated only for a small time because the team had to get back to work improving and rebuilding the robot. Ip said, “We ended up placing third at the state qualifer in January, qualifying us for the States competition that happened on February eighteenth. We fnished eighth in the state, which made me incredibly proud considering how new our team was to this competition. We also won the First Tech Challenge Connect Award for Community Service for our work with both Horizons National and Pathfnder.”
The club heads wish to increase the attendance. Kendall said, “Robotics hasn’t reached the level of ‘cool’ that I wish it were at.” The members said that they know it has many ways to improve. Ip said,“If you’ve seen the current state of our room, you’ll know that organization isn’t our strong suit.”
After this rough few months of competition excitement, members of robotics said that they can now focus on the less experienced members and relax. Kendall said, “We will be building a drone and electric skateboard over the rest of the year.”
Ip said, “Robotics is so much more than ten nerds building and coding robots every Wednesday. It’s a group of kids putting our hearts and souls into a project that we love doing together. Find us in M101. We’re always there.”