Westfield High School robotics team embraces competition season


The Westfield High School Sham-Rock-Botics team kicked off its season Jan. 6 as members met for the video launch of the 2024 FIRST Robotics Competition.

Inventor Dean Kamen established For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology in 1989 to use robotic technology to help prepare students ages 4 to 18 for the future. Each season, teams of students follow strict rules to build and program robots that will compete in a challenging field game.

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Mentor C.J. Wood, left and WHS science teacher Michael Marley unbox a foam ring that will be the scoring element for this season’s game.

Teams have limited time, with the contest for each season being announced in January and the state competition taking place in early April. During the competition season, the Sham-Rock-Botics team meets every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, the 25 team members often come in during study periods or whenever they have extra time during the school day, often spending the time equivalent to having a part-time job.

“It takes as much time as any sport you’ll ever play,” team mentor CJ Wood said. “FIRST calls it the ‘sport of the mind.’”

Wood is one of multiple mentors from the professional world who volunteer their time and talent to work with the Sham-Roc-Botics team. A Purdue graduate who works as a mechanical engineer with Rolls Royce, began mentoring FIRST teams as a senior at Southport High School in Indianapolis.

It was mentors for the Southport team who helped start the team at WHS in 2018.

WWS recently received a STEM Integration Grant from the Indiana Department of Education. Part of those funds will cover the WHS team’s registration fees as well as providing funds toward parts for the robot. Westfield Middle and Westfield Intermediate schools will also receive some of that grant money for their programs.

WHS science teacher Brian Ulkloss said some of team members were able to go to the Indiana Statehouse to take part in lobbying for the grant.

“It was a great experience for the kids to see that in action,” Ukloss said.

Advocating for their team has broadened the experience for some team members, who also had the opportunity to speak at the December 2023 WWS board meeting. In addition to explaining what the Sham-Rock-Botics team does and all that they learn through the process of competing in FIRST, team members presented their need for a larger space. Once the team gets to the point of testing the robot they build on a competition field, they will have to travel to Kokomo where Andymark, a robotics parts supplier, has a field set up in a warehouse.

The Sham-Rock-Bots will attend two qualifying district events in March. Team members expect to make it to state competition in early April, as they have every year since the team began. The ultimate goal is to be one of 11 teams from Indiana to qualify for the world championship in Houston.

For more, visit shamrockbotics.com or follow @shamrockbotics on social media.