Here I am, standing in a large arena, Xbox controller in my hands, 4-foot robot across from me. All the pressure is on me. My team of high school students put so much effort into building this remote-controlled robot composed of steel, nuts, wheels and bolts. As the driver, it’s my job to deliver the results.
I joined robotics my junior year of high school. It made me realize teamwork and problem-solving could accomplish goals that seemed impossible. I never had interest in extracurriculars before, but my friend insisted I join with him.
When I first started, I was clueless, just like many others. But looking back, I couldn’t have known how much I would learn and achieve in three months and how it would truly pay off.
In a competition, every robot scores points for their team by shooting balls in the low basket or the high basket, as well as by climbing three bars elevating to 11 feet. Looking around at the complex robots sent shocks through my body. Tons of people staring gave me a chill through my spine. I needed to prepare myself mentally for my first match as a driver and as an official competitor.
In the competing arena, I focus on my team and my robot. Nothing else mattered in the moment. Even though our robot didn’t have a climbing mechanism, everything felt in place; my teammates were hyping me up and calming my nerves. A loud air horn started the competition, and the robots moved by themselves for the first 10 seconds. “Three, two, one.”
Another airhorn blared, and I picked up the controller and started scoring the best I could.
However, I noticed the other teams in my alliance were not moving. I didn’t know what to do, but I tried making the best of what I could. We lost. But, I still felt we could confidently compete with bigger teams.
After the match, the team decided instead of winning the competition we needed to prove to ourselves that our robot could climb. After eight matches with mixed results, our team had put a lot effort into the climbing mechanism and told me to climb.
With the assistance of my team, I attempted to climb in the next match. The first bar cleared. The second bar cleared. As I was bringing the hook up, I pressed the button and the hook wouldn’t come out. I mashed the buttons as my teammates grabbed the controller from me and mashed, too. I heard the round end and we all went back to our workspaces. Instead of being gloomy, the team fixed the problem with my help and feedback. As the driver, I guided our team through the problems like issues with controls, how the robot moves, shoots and climbs.
The very last match, I was in the perfect position. The crowd was cheering, my team watching me closely. It was all on me. For some reason, I wasn’t nervous. I knew I had to climb. Forty-five seconds into the match, I started climbing. First bar climbed. Second bar climbed. With five seconds left, I pressed the button and the hook sprung out. I hooked on the third bar and let go of the controller. I screamed triumphantly. In that moment, all the hard work the team put in paid off.
While we didn’t win, I couldn’t believe we made a complete robot. We made the impossible possible. It taught me to keep working in chaotic environments. However, teamwork wasn’t only limited to robotics. I’m able to use teamwork in school, and it’s easier to work with others. I also see the ben- efits of extracurriculars. They’re opportunities to meet new people, gain new experiences and learn new skills, something I hope to keep doing as I further my education.