Mount Everett students learn the nuts and bolts of technology in robotics club

Mount Everett Regional School robotics club students, along with club mentor Chris Thompson, posing with the robots that they created. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Sheffield — Since 2008, Mount Everett Regional School students have learned about technology through the school’s robotics club. This year’s club consists of 17 middle and high school students who have come together to design and build robots and to take part in competitions against other school clubs in New England.

When the Berkshire Edge visited the club on Wednesday, January 18, the students, along with club mentor Chris Thompson, were all busy getting their robots together to compete at the VEX Spin Up competition at Middletown High School in Middletown, Conn. on Saturday, January 28. VEX Robotics is a national program that includes competitions and programs managed by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.

“We have some very busy kids,” Thompson said as some of the students scurried around the clubhouse putting together parts of their robots. “Robotics involves computer science programming and mechanical engineering. These are all things that could be very well in the future in terms of students’ employment. But even beyond that, the critical thinking skills and the group work all lend to the general ability for children to express themselves creatively with their robots.” Thompson said that robotics involves much more than learning about technology. “Putting together robots also leads to confidence building,” Thompson said. “There’s so much more than just the technological aspects of putting robots together. There’s a lot of the human aspect to it as well. I think throughout their work in this club, students tend to grow quite a bit as people. But the whole idea with competitive robotics is to try to draw the attention, the interest, and the excitement that professional sports leagues get in our culture, but bring it to a scientific arena.”

For their upcoming competitions, the 17 team members will be split into five different teams, each team controlling a different robot. Each robot will be competing against other robots in a 12-foot by 12-foot arena, with the robots picking up and shooting discs into baskets in order to earn points. “It’s sort of like frisbee golf,” Thompson said.

From left: Mount Everett Regional School students Ben Vella, 14, Sophie Delmasto, 15, and Kai Hohlstein, 14, working on a robot as part of the school’s robotics club. Photo by Shaw Israel Izikson.

Students enrolled in the club have learned multiple skills, including freshman student Ben Vella, 14. “I’ve learned a lot about skills in engineering and especially problem-solving,” Ben said. “We’ve had a few difficulties here and there with our robots. However, we’ve been able to push through these difficulties and solve them by coming up with great solutions.”

Ben said that he plans on working in the technology field in the future. “I look forward to being at this club even into my senior year,” Ben said.

“It’s a difficult thing to put together a robot,” freshman student Kai Hohlstein, 14, said. “But if you have a good team, it makes it a lot more fun. I’ve learned a lot about how important practice is when it comes to technology in order to get things to work. It’s a different medium than I am used to, but it’s fun.”

Student Sophie Delmasto, 15, said that she has learned a lot about time management as part of the club. “It’s all about the time commitment,” Sophie said. “And it’s also about a love for engineering. When I was younger, I really liked to play with Legos. It’s nice to play with bigger Legos.”