If you happened to drop by the activities fair last Tuesday, there’s a good chance you either saw or heard a cubical robot careening down the aisle and upon reaching the wall, turning on a dime and speeding off in the other direction. This demonstration was put on by the robotics club.
The Robotics club, also known as Mech Cadets, is moderated by Mr. McCarthy, Ms. Butler, and Mr. Bliss. The club takes part in competitions — at least two a year — in which their robot has to complete certain tasks and skills faster than robots from other schools. The tasks change each year, (the specimen on display at the activities fair is designed to shoot foam balls) thus necessitating the building of a new robot every year. This keeps the club busy — really busy. They meet 5 days a week, only taking Friday and Sunday off. Yes, this club meets on Saturday, regularly spending 9 hours at school while other students sleep in. During competition season, they often work overtime. According to Ms. Butler, “The Mech Cadets have been here until 11 before.”
It’s a demanding schedule, but if you’re interested in STEM, according to Mr. McCarthy, there’s no better program to join. Members of the club are separated into four subgroups, each being of equal importance for engineering success.
Programming: these students write the code that allows the robot to function.
Electrical: these students make sure the robot has power.
Mechanical design: these students help construct the robot’s physical structure.
Business: these students secure grants and scholarships for the club (making a robot from scratch isn’t cheap).
These groups are in no way stratified. According to John Rogan ‘22, head of programming and the person controlling the robot at the Activities fair, “people work across teams all the time.”
The four subgroups work together to create a functioning, controllable robot come competition time, and historically they’ve been pretty good at it. The SJC Robotics team qualified for the world championship in 2018 and finished middle of the pack. In 2019 they missed the cutoff for World’s by one point. The task for this year’s robots will be announced in January, and the Mech Cadets plan to begin construction as soon as possible.
John Rogan has some encouraging words about the team’s prospects: “There’s not a better environment, we are all genuine friends connected by our passion for robotics. If you’re on the fence, stop by one of our meetings and see if you like the environment.”
The Mech Cadets need people with diverse skill sets. Even if you aren’t gifted in programming or mathematics, there is still a place for you on the team. If you’re interested, email John Rogan at Jrogan22@stjohnschs.org.