Birth of the Cybear Bots: the Club and the Team

The three day competition is not only a full-fledged interaction between students and builders but is also a spectator sport, packing the seats.

Akshay Gupta

This past March, Brewster’s first ever Robotics team, a subgroup of the Robotics Club, traveled to Rockland Community College for our premier robotics competition. The FIRST Hudson Valley Regional event hosted teams from nearby and all over the globe: Brazil, Turkey, India, and the Bronx School of Science are just a few of the locations from where the teams traveled. Overall, forty-six teams competed.

Brewster is the third team to represent Putnam County at this event. Hard work and a rookie grant from NASA enabled us to compete in this FRC event. It is not BattleBots. FRC stands for the First Robotics Competition, while FIRST is an acronym representing For the Inspiration of Robotics, Science, and Technology.

Randomly formed alliances of three teams face off against each other in challenges. This year’s space-based challenges included picking up “cargo” and using “hatch panels” among other tasks like elevating the robots. Each team had to design and build a robot to complete the tasks in just six weeks.

The build season for the robot began January 5th and ended February 19th. During this build time, the twenty-member club worked together to address the challenge. We had to learn how to design, build, and program a robot for the competition. Working hard but also having fun, the team built the robot through long days after school and on weekends. At the end of the build season, the club had a robot that was capable of going around 12 ft/s at only 40% speed. It was too fast to be left at 100%!

At the completion of the build season, all robots are bagged and tagged. Fairness is maintained by placing the working robotic securely in a bag that can be opened only on competition day, in front of a judge. Still, with a couple of weeks left before competition, the team did not stop. We practiced driving for competition on a borrowed base with our mechanism attached on a draw slide. Our bot could be seen driving around the math wing after school (sorry, winter track). Drive practice consumed a great amount of time before competition.

The competition is more than just driving the robot, however. The team must also present to judges and other individuals, speaking effectively to convey the potential one’s team has. This is also accomplished through the student development of handbooks, safety manuals and business plans. Team members must reach out to the other teams on their alliances to discuss strategies and what each robot could do. Our team prepared down to the very last minute – practicing presentations of the robot and perfecting our business plan.

When it was time for competition, the team was nervous, but ready. Waking up at 6am every morning to drive down to competition was hard work but was also fun. Senior AJ Gallo was heard remarking that the competition was the most fun he has had in awhile. From 3/22 – 3/24, BHS students engaged with international teams as well as teams from the tri-state area. Many of these teams had over ten years of experience in competition. Each team prepared “freebies.” Along the way, we collected these fun trinkets – buttons, bracelets, and more!

The Cybear Bots started off strong in an alliance with team twenty. We remained consistently ranked in the top fifteen throughout the competition. In the round robin phase, we were ranked number twelve out of the pool of forty-six. Our team was the highest rookie seed and won an award for this. We also moved onto the final eliminations round, being team captain of alliance number eight in the playoffs. Not bad for our first year!

By the end of the competition, our team was exhausted but excited for the awards ceremony. We already knew that we had won the Highest Rookie Seed Award. When the judges called out “Team 7504” for the Rookie Inspiration Award, our mentors and teammates happily ran up to collect our award.

Robotics is more than just STEM – it is business, photography, outreach, and more. Students can add value to the club without ever attending a competition. Our mission statement states that we are a club that moves beyond the traditional classroom to include more students, encourage community collaboration with mentors, and immerse ourselves in STEM through our involvement with FIRST. Our club allows people to come together, have fun, and collaborate to meet a challenge. As senior Brendan Fox remarked, “Being part of the robotics club has allowed me to meet a group of intellectuals I normally wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet.”

Sophomore Jesse Frey expressed how being a part of the team meant, “learning how to be one gear in a cog machine full of other gears with specific skills and abilities, and having to focus on one specific job while working together with everyone else.” Nowhere else would a student be able to work on cutting metal down and scaring incoming classmates with a 50+lb robot.

Our team enjoyed a great season, thanks to our advisor, Mrs. Greenfeld, and our in-house mentors – Mrs. Chalmers, Mr. Lamoreaux, and Dr. Schmidt. We collaborated with community mentors Mr. Gallo, Mr. and Mrs. Brillon, and Mrs. Frey. Neubauer A.V.P provided us with banners for publicity. Without their collective help, none of this would have been possible.

As the end of this school year approaches, our team will be making preparations for the off-season and the next year ahead. When the six senior members graduate, they leave knowing that they started something with the potential to continue for years to come. This is our legacy. I know many of us are hoping to be able to return as mentors next season.

In the meantime, the club continues to meet on Thursdays in Room 153. We continue to design, build, fundraise, write, and prepare for the future. New members are always welcome!