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One on One with Monarch High School Robotics Team

As you read in my last post with a different high school robotics team, Quick Left is a big supporter of STEM programs and community involvement.

This time, I sat down with project manager and head programmer of the Monarch High School FIRST Robotics team Shazbots 1245, Katy, and assistant project manager and head of web design, Jake. I kept having to remind myself throughout the process that I was speaking with high school students. Looking forward to seeing what the Shazbots and Black Knights have in store for 2014.



1. How did the Shazbots 1245 team get its name and start? The Shazbots first started in 2003, under a different name, the Regulators. It began after a visit from Dean Kamen to Colorado to pitch the benefits of starting a robotics team. A small group of students in a technology club decided to take on the challenge. The team was fortunate to attract the attention of a cadre of local engineers to serve as mentors, many of whom are still with us to this day. The next year, the team decided to change the generic sounding Regulators to a more interesting name, the Shazbots. It was initially a completely random name, but a few years later we realized that it had tie ins with the show Mork and Mindy. 1245 is our team number; all FIRST teams have them. They are generally distributed in order of registration. They are up to the 5000s.

2. What is the FIRST organization? FIRST is an organization started back in 1992 by inventor Dean Kamen. As its namesake says (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), the entire idea is to get the next generation of kids interested in science and technology early on, in hopes of creating a generation ready to tackle the future world’s problems. This is accomplished through four different programs for different ages: Jr. FLL (FIRST Lego League), FLL, FTC (FIRST Tech Challenge), and FRC (FIRST Robotics Competition). We are an FRC team.

3. What are the main goals of Monarch High School's Robotics Club? As a robotics team, one of our goals is to build a competition-ready robot in the 6-week time period we are given. But the robot is one of the least important goals of FIRST teams. We also aim to get others excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) through demonstrations and other events. For example, every year we host an FLL tournament. We especially love showing kids how cool STEM is and encourage them to join FIRST teams in their areas. The team also strives to emulate every area of a successful engineering company, including project management, web/media-presence, and business affairs.

4. So just what do you do as a member of the Shazbots? Take me through a typical day/week/semester. During the fall, we meet weekly to work on smaller projects such as building a new drivetrain or prepare for a scrimmage. During our 45-day build season starting in January, we meet every day but Fridays and Sundays. Days are frantic, trying to accomplish all of our goals in a very short amount of time. We start off most days with a quick meeting, where the project managers talk about the day’s objectives for the different departments (mechanical, electrical, programming, etc.) Then we will break off and start on working on the day’s tasks. Around dinner time, parents who signed up for the night bring in food for the team, and we take a dinner break, then work until either we finish the day’s goals or it reaches 7:00.

5. Have you participated in any competitions? Can anyone attend these competitions? Every year, we compete in the FIRST Colorado Regional held in the Magness Arena at Denver University. This is just one of many FIRST regional competitions all over the world, where teams can qualify for the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis. We compete with 5 other robots at a time for the game, as well as for other awards such as Creativity and Entrepreneurship. This event is free and open to the public. You can see the schedule and more information here. In addition to the FIRST regional, this year we are trying to attend the Championship (see question 10).

Last year was our first year competing in the Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition at the beginning of summer. We created a completely autonomous robot to race around a course. We plan to do that again this year. This is also a free and public event.

In addition, we occasionally attend scrimmages during the off season or towards the end of build season. We recently attended one called “Labyrinth”, hosted by FIRST Team 3200. This event, due to it being held in a high school, did not have much room for spectators but did not have other restrictions.

6. What other types of outreach does the club do? The two main types of outreach that the Shazbots do are mentoring younger students through the FLL program and various robot demos. The past two years, we have started FLL teams at Monarch K-8 and Eldorado K-8. We helped get the teams on their feet by lending out LEGO Mindstorms kits for the teams to use, as well as inviting high school mentors go over to the schools to help with the more technical aspects. We also demo our robot at our own school activities, to other local schools, and to businesses or conferences. For example, every year we attend the American Astronautical Society’s Guidance and Control Conference in Breckenridge.

7. What are past Mo-Hi Shazbot members up to these days after graduating highschool? Many past Shazbots are either studying STEM fields or are currently working in them. We have had members land internships with places like NASA due to their time on the team. Many team members have gone to local engineering schools such as CU, CSU and CSM. Others have ventured out of state to schools such as MIT, Wellesley, Case Western, Gonzaga and Carnegie Mellon to name a few. They are currently studying and/or working in a wide range of fields including architecture, brain neurology and, of course, robotics.

8. How does Quick Left's contribution help your club? Donations made by organizations will go towards paying for all of the parts used to build the robot, competition registration fee, and travel expenses for the competitions. More specifically, this donation we received from Quick Left will go towards making our dream of attending the FIRST Championship a reality.

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? Monarch students are free to join our team. Outside students can talk to us and we can help connect them with a local team or help them start their own team. We do a few school presentations a year, so freshmen and prospective students can learn more about what it is we do. Businesses can be involved in a number of ways. We have adult mentors from STEM companies such as Lockheed Martin and Microsoft, and we’re always open to sponsorships! More information (for everyone) is available on our website, http://shazbots.org/. And of course, anyone can come cheer us on down at the DU Ritchie Center on April 3-5, or watch online at http://www.thebluealliance.com/gameday, just select the Colorado Regional.

10. What are the Shazbots most look forward to accomplish in 2014? This year we are especially looking to qualify for the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis. We are a veteran team, so we are allowed to go this year without qualifying, however we are really hoping that we will be able to qualify by being on the winning alliance, or winning one of the regional awards. We have just started build season and are working on different designs in order to build the best robot possible!

Additional Resources: To learn more about FIRST and FRC, please visit their website. To learn more about our team, please see shazbots.org.

Links to all of the Shazbot's social media can be found on their website under the media tab.