A robotics team at Westfield High School has generated plenty of interest among students, who are preparing to kick off their upcoming season in January.
The Sham-Rock-Botics team competes against other robotics teams in the region and is tasked with different challenges at competitions, said Matt Veldman, who serves as one of several mentors. However, a major part of the team’s work at the start of each season involves building a robot from scratch that takes several weeks, Veldman said.
“Our main goal is to inspire people around STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – but we also try to build students as a whole,” Veldman said.
Veldman said students are involved with team outreach efforts, developing business plans, in addition to visual media and public relations as part of their involvement with Sham-Rock-Botics, which is part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, an international high school robotics competition.
This year, there are 12 returning students, and the robotics team as a whole typically has 20 to 25 individuals. The first full Saturday in January marks the kickoff when a new game is released, meaning that students will have approximately six to eight weeks before their first competition to plan, design and build a new robot, according to Veldman.
Veldman said the fall season is typically a time when mentors try to get new students engaged with the team, which placed fourth at the district competition in Columbus and eventually qualified the Sham-Rock-Botics team for the state championship.
Veldman, who is a software engineer at Aptiv in Carmel, said he was involved with his own robotics team at Pike High School that ultimately helped him determine his career path. He added that students also get to learn about important skills that will benefit them down the road, such as communication, noting that students are required to work with other teams at competitions within different matches.
“It’s important that we understand our strengths and weaknesses and we can discuss that with our alliance partners and determine best strategies and to hopefully beat (the other teams),” Veldman said.
Graham Puterbaugh, a senior who is in his third year with Sham-Rock-Botics, said he decided to get involved because of his interest in robotics and noted his favorite part is interacting with fellow team members.
“We have some really great members on the team … and they’re a lot of fun to work with,” he said. “It’s a real great learning experience and going to the competitions is a whole lot of fun … and the actual matches are a huge adrenaline rush.”
Puterbaugh’s teammate, Abhijay Salvi, a junior, said he learned about the Sham-Rock-Botics team through a school announcement and became interested in robotics with his middle school team. Salvi got involved at the high school level during his sophomore year, which he said was a great experience after joining shortly after a kickoff meeting.
Salvi, who wants to pursue a career in computer science and robotics, said he is particularly interested in how the two fields can work together. His involvement with the robotics team has proven to be beneficial, he said.
“This is a great opportunity because not only do you get to learn how to build a robot from complete scratch – from manufacturing to getting the parts to electrical components – but you get to learn other technical skills such as electrical, computer science,” Salvi said.
But it’s the competitions that spur the most excitement for Salvi.
“That’s the time where you get to see how well you perform in a real-life setting,” he said. “You get to see your amazing product out on the field and see it succeed.”
But the challenges and obstacles that students face are an important part of the overall learning experience in robotics, according to Salvi.
“They become way crucial to the success, but it also helps us teach a lot about teamwork, communication and those critical skills you need to achieve good results in a high-intensive zone,” he said.
To learn more about the Sham-Rock-Botics, visit shamrockbotics.com/index.html or e-mail [email protected]. The group is actively accepting high school students who are interested in being a part of Sham-Rock-Botics for its upcoming season, which begins in January.