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One on One with Fairview High School Robotics Team

Quick Left is a big supporter of STEM programs and community involvement, no doubt. From hosting regular hackfests free to the public to sponsoring programs we care about…like Monarch and Fairview High Schools' robotics teams.

I sat down with co-president of Fairview High School's Robotics team, Arianna, to chat about the Black Knights and what they're up to. SPOILER ALERT: They're up to some really cool things.

1. How did the Fairview High School Robotics team get its name (The Black Knights) and start? Fairview's mascot is the Knight, but we got our name from the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail! We were founded in 2007, so I wasn't around, but we began as many Robotics teams do – with interested students, a willing mentor, and the luck to have access to resources!

2. What is the FIRST organization? FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology! They are an organization that inspires kids and teens (in elementary, middle, and high school) to become interested in technology by designing programs including FRC (the competition we take part in), the FIRST Tech Challenge (which includes middle school students), and LEGO League (for students in elementary school).

3. What are the main goals of The Black Knights Team? We've always been a team focused around learning: every year, we aim to foster enthusiasm and develop technical skills in newer and older members alike. We also love to succeed: our team has been steadily improving for the past few years, so we really hope we can seed high at Regionals and move on this year!

4. So just what do you do as a member of the The Black Knights? Take me through a typical day/week/semester. There's no typical day or week – during the off-season, when we're not building robots, we brainstorm, raise funds, and organize. We also attend off-season scrimmages at other high schools to get new members acquainted to building robots. Then, at the beginning of January each year (our kickoff was today) the challenge is announced and we get to work! We read through the game manual thoroughly, come up with broad-reaching ideas and strategies. We build prototypes out of wood or simple materials, and meet as a group to decide on our design. For the six weeks of build season, we build our robot, working as we go. Usually, during the fifth week, we go to a scrimmage at another high school, where we can test our robot and meet members of other teams. At the end of six weeks, we "bag up" our robot — we aren't allowed to touch it again until we get to the Denver regional competition, which is usually in April. Finally we attend the competition, which is the highlight of the season!

5. Have you participated in any competitions? Can anyone attend these competitions? I have! We expect every team member to come with us and see how their hard work turns out, and usually we have parents, siblings, and friends tagging along as well. Anyone can attend and watch the matches, which tend to be surrounded by enthusiastic high school students, wearing their team's color and shouting out chants.

6. What other types of outreach does the club do? Historically, our team has found it difficult to do outreach. In the future, however, we would love to mentor a middle school FTC team. Unfortunately, very few middle schools in the area seem to have caught on – perhaps it'll soon change!

7. What are past Black Knight members up to these days after graduating high school? Our team members have gone to colleges all over the United States, from Harvey Mudd in California to Olin College in Massachusetts! Some even become mentors for teams in their area – and of course, we hope that any of our members who go to CU come back and help us!

8. How does Quick Left's contribution help your club? From the $5000 registration fee, to the additional parts we need to build our robot, to the transportation we might need if we got to Nationals, Robotics definitely isn't cheap. Quick Left helps us sustain a team that can be competitive and also a lot of fun.

9. How can a student get involved with your club or find more information? How can non-students or businesses get involved with your club? To make sure students know that our club exists, we plaster our school with posters and encourage friends who might be interested to join – then, at meetings, we woo them with our past robots and make sure they know they'll be appreciated. We have a page on our school's website, our own website, a Twitter, and a Facebook page – depending on your preferred method of communication, there is a way to find more information. Businesses, potential mentors, and those interested in our clubs can learn about us through the same avenues, though we also suggest they email us if they have any questions or inquiries!

10. What are the Black Knights most look forward to accomplish in 2014? We're really looking forward to the upcoming build season! The challenge this year, Aerial Assist, will require us to co-operate with other teams more than ever, so we also hope to meet a lot of teams that we haven't had the pleasure of getting to know yet.

A bit more about Arianna– She's a senior at Fairview High School, where she is an IB Diploma Candidate, co-president of the Robotics Team, and a member of the Speech and Debate Team. Can you say over-achiever? Prior to moving to Boulder, Arianna grew up in Austria, with an economist mother and a programmer father. She also enjoys reading, feminist discourse, and (like all teenagers) wasting her time online. Can you say overachiever!?

To learn more about the Black Knights, visit their website, Twitter, or Facebook page.