Robotics Q&A

Paul Gross and Clara Luce ’18 share their thoughts on FRC 5980’s third season


Asha Lewis, Managing Editor


As the Robotics team grinds through their 6-week build season, the only time allotted to build their robot, the Vision caught up with some members to talk about their upcoming season.


What does your season look like?

Paul Gross: Overall the build season ends later this month. Our first competition is going to be in early March in Saint Joseph, Michigan and then we also have another one that’s going to be at Grand Valley State University in early March and that is the West Michigan Districts Championship. States, if we qualify, is at Saginaw Valley State University and [the] World Championship which this year is in Detroit and that’s also if we make it.

Clara Luce: “Bag day” is midnight Feb. 20. We have to seal our robot in a bag so we’ll be here until midnight that night. We’ll probably be scrambling to finish our last minute things then we just seal it up. It’s an honor system though the company trusts that the teams follow the rules. After that we start planning for competition, like building our pit which is the place where you keep all your tools at competition. Basically just building your brand as a team. It’s a lot more chill after build season and this year we get to have a big party for Bag Day so I’m really excited.


Why did you do Robotics?

Paul Gross: Personally, I did it not to put on my transcript. You know, it’s a pretty big interest of mine, engineering, and the whole field is something I want to pursue overall.


What role do you play on the team?

Paul Gross: This year I was on the grabber team which is the thing in the front that grabs the power cubes which is like part of the whole game this year and I helped build that as well as part of the whole engineering log but everyone has a role on that.

Clara Luce: Currently the official roles haven’t been chosen for this season, [but] last year I was on the pit crew so basically in between matches we fix the robot because usually something breaks off [or] gets bent so we make sure everything is working. It’s like the pit crew in a race car field. This year I’ve been working mostly on the build team and the design team


What is the game this year for competition?

Paul Gross: This year the game is an arcade theme and the yellow power cubes are kind of like the Super Mario classic game style blocks. The field is set up where there’s two switches on each side, the red team and the blue team, and then the scale is up higher in the middle. You have to put cubes on one side of the scale and that side will gain ownership and then the scale will move towards the red lines or the blue lines based on how many cubes are on that side. But it’s not the amount of cubes that matter but where they’re put on the scale which will balance it.


What’s different this year?

Paul Gross: There’s definitely a lot more new members of the team and a lot more contribution towards different things. We don’t have nearly as many stressful hours as we did last year. I would say that the competition is still the same intensity it’s just the amount of hours we’ve put in is definitely less intense. We don’t nearly need to have as much pressure on building [the robot]. Of course there’s a deadline to it we still have a certain amount of time and we know what we’re kind of doing.

Clara Luce: The robot this year is pretty much completely different. I think every year things change so much; it’s impossible to make a robot that was anything like the robot in the years past. Intensity wise, it’s a lot less intense. Last year we were putting in 40 plus hours a week. this year is only three and a half hours after school and on the weekends we do nine hours.


What is the hardest part of Robotics?

Paul Gross: Competition can be one of the hardest parts when it comes to that. I guess the hardest part is not just competition but also build season just because it’s really crunch time and you really got to build a lot in a short amount of time. You really only have about two months to build this whole robot, actually a little less than that from when the original game video is released. Until the last day we can build of course, you can still add things after that, but there are certain restrictions that we have to follow.

Clara Luce: The hardest part for me is probably frustration during build season. When things aren’t working it can get really hard to push through and be like “I just need to keep trying.” but from what I’ve experienced, all the stress you put in for those six weeks is worth what you get out of it in all the competitions and amazing people that you meet throughout the competition season. So like even when I get really stressed during build season, I know that it’s going to be worth it and even if our robot is not amazing, it’s not about the robot it’s about the team and the people and the engineering.


What is the easiest part of Robotics?

Paul Gross: The easiest part [of Robotics] would probably be collaboration. This is only my second year doing it but in both years the team has always been really close. We’ve never really had any major issues in terms of collaboration or getting along or anything like that. We all just really fit together because we’re a bunch of people from different parts [of the school], in terms of athletics and academics, but we kinda all have one similar interest that brings us together.

Clara Luce: The easiest part is probably just [that] like it’s easy to come because it’s usually fun even if you keep messing stuff up, there’s a bunch of people around you and we’re all just super close so it’s fun to hang out.


What are some things you’ve learned from Robotics?

Paul Gross: I’ve definitely learned how to build things using motors [and] just different types of machinery. We use all types of tools in there such as a drill press, chop saw, even something like a drill. We use a variety of different types of material like wood, metal, aluminum [which] we use to pretty much build the whole cahsee of the robot, which is like the layout of it, and that’s really helped my skills in terms of like more hands on type of things.

Clara Luce: I’ve learned so much; a lot of physical things, like I’ve learned how to use a drill and a band saw and i know how to weld stuff and a bunch of skills that I’d never learn in a classroom. There’s also [how to] act like a businessperson. We’ve had to go to sponsorship meetings where we’re presenting ourselves like a brand and a product to people so they donate money to us. So I’ve kind of learned how to be a professional even as a high schooler which is really really important and it helps students kind of understand what they want to do with their lives. There are so many parts of Robotics that kind of encompasses a lot of professions so you can figure out what you like in Robotics. It just kind of guides you a little bit before you get into college so you know kind of where you wanna go which has helped me at least.


What are some unique opportunities Robotics has afforded you?

Paul Gross: Over the summer, we collaborated with a team in Nigeria, their first team, and they were building a robot. We assisted them in that and we did video conference calls with them so we got to know them and their coach. I’d say it helps you with a wider perspective and it’s about overall knowledge and collaboration with people and different teams.

Clara Luce: The main program that Robotics runs under is called FIRST and basically they offer tons of college scholarships and I know a bunch of kids on our team have gotten scholarship from. Through FIRST you can do a lot of volunteering at other competitions [and] you can volunteer with the younger teams so we’ve at their competitions and helped grow the STEM community in younger kids. We met this guy who was in robotics who came and spoke to us [named] Tim Balls [who] works at Space X and just worked on the recent rocket launch and at Intel and Google. He came and talked to us about how Robotics influenced him and having him as a connection now, like I have his personal email and I want to go into something with space and he obviously has connections in that industry. Opportunities like that are like once in a lifetime if you weren’t in Robotics you wouldn’t know he was in the school except for our team and a few other teams we invited.