WCHS’ Robotics team makes finals

The Zero Robotics competition hosts teams from around the globe, including WCHS.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

The Zero Robotics competition hosts teams from around the globe, including WCHS.

By Emma Chen, Assistant Observations Editor

As part of WCHS’ Advanced Programming class, students are able to opt out of the class’s curriculum and instead participate in the Zero Gravity Robotics competition. Both MIT and NASA sponsor the international competition for high schoolers.

WCHS made it to the finals in 2014, before the competition was opened up internationally. This year, the team made finals for the first time since that year.

“There was a feeling of accomplishment and pride,” senior and team leader Priya Kallah said. “We had all worked so hard to get to that point, and when we made it to the next round it was a sense of relief that all our hard work paid off.”

According to a team member, senior Lilly Boehler, the team holds many meetings outside of school for hours in order to finish their work.

The competition works in rounds. The first is a solo round. The second round of the competition is an alliance round, where each team is paired with two other international teams. The WCHS team was drafted to be with two Italian teams. The combined team had to program the robots and run them on a website.

“Due to the obvious language barrier and time difference, it was a struggle to really be able to work with them,” Kalla said. “We overcame this problem by working on Saturdays and scheduling those meetings at a mutually agreed time.”

According to Boehler, resources such as Google Translate also made communication easier.

The team’s mentors include Computer Science teacher Jack Stansbury and Computer Science Assistant Teacher David Chen.

“I really credit our successes to our mentors Jack Stansbury and David Chen,”  senior Medha Tumkur said. “They really helped us understand the details of the competition, plan out our strategies for each round and work out whatever issues we encountered.”

The final competition, hosted at MIT, involves running their code on actual robots in the International Space Station.

According to Chen, the competition involves moving the programmed robot through a debris field without colliding, getting in position in front of another sphere, hooking the two spheres together and towing the sphere back to the base area.

“I’m looking forward to traveling to and exploring Boston with my friends,” Tumkur said. “I’m also excited to meet some some of the other winning teams from across the country.”

The basis of the competition is not only computer programming, but also involves a lot of physics and math.

“I think we have a pretty nice and efficient team,” senior Karen Song said. “We work till the deadline every round to ensure that we could do the best we can.”