Photographer / Eli Beaverson
For the third year in a row, Westfield High School is competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) under the name SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS, team 6956.
FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is a nonprofit organization designed to motivate young people to pursue educational and career opportunities in STEM-related fields, while teaching them life lessons and helping to build confidence.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, and has spread to schools and young people across the globe. There are competition levels for many ages including kindergarten through fourth grade, fourth through eighth, seventh through twelfth, and ninth through twelfth.
The SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS team was founded in August of 2017 when FIRST alumni visited Westfield High School, and encouraged school leaders to participate and students to join. Westfield began competing with FIRST in 2018.
“We wanted to make sure these students had the opportunity to participate in the program,” says Hannah May, a SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS mentor.
Currently the team consists of 23 Westfield High School students and eight mentors. The team has grown considerably since 2017, and is excited to continue developing and improving in its third season of FIRST participation.
The SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS members are proud to be the first partner team in the midwest to become a gold-tier LGBT+ partner in FIRST Robotics.
During the building season, which runs through January and February, students learn about the cultural aspects of the type of robot they’ll be constructing, and how to build it. Students on the team then create content for the competition’s building portion and presentation portion.
Student team members handle many required tasks on their own, with the help and guidance of their mentors. One such task is securing sponsors by emailing or calling local businesses and organizations. Mentors are mostly volunteers, and each mentor spends personal time teaching, leading and getting to know each student.
“My favorite part of SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS is that no matter what, our mentors help us with anything we need help with, including school,” says Toni, a Westfield High School tenth grader and team member. “This helps me to learn better. They try to help you find something to do that you want to, so you don’t feel like you can’t do something.”
Each student team member has a different task for the competition. In addition to working on the team’s robot, Toni videotaped the students offering their thoughts on FIRST, why they participate, and what they think of the team. Iris, a Westfield senior, works on the robot’s shooter and electronic controls.
The team members and mentors met on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings as well as Saturday mornings during the 2020 build season. Their first competition for 2020 was March 7, and the Indiana state competition runs from April 3 through 5.
“My favorite part of being on this team is how much I’ve changed,” Iris says. “I am now able to talk to people easier, and I have learned a lot. It has improved me outside of just robotics, which has been very beneficial.”
After graduating in May, Iris is off to Purdue University in the fall to study robotics. According to Iris, SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS helped her find a passion for robotics, and this passion has cultivated an interest in a future career in the robotics field.
“I take great joy from being able to witness the growth of our students,” May says. “Every practice and season they continue to impress me, and I love getting the chance to be a small part of their success.”
For more information on FIRST including details on starting a team, programs available based on grade level, and important info for parents, visit firstinspires.org. To learn more about SHAM-ROCK-BOTICS, go to shamrockbotics.com.