Robotics teams ready for competition season to begin

Robotics teams across the district have started getting ready for a new year of competition while adjusting to changes made to ensure a safe season.

One of the changes includes the start date of the season. Normally competitions begin in October, but due to COVID-19, they have been postponed for January.

“COVID has left its mark on every aspect of our daily lives, and when it comes to robotics there is no exception,” Gutierrez Middle School Robotics Coach Veronica Caballero said.

The competition setting has also been adjusted.

“Competitions will either be livestreamed from individual campuses and judged remotely, or they will reduce in-person events where only the team captain, driver, and spotter can attend, compared to last year when the entire team of 10 attended,” Harlingen High School Engineering and Tech Club Sponsor and Robotics Coach Paul Tenison said.

However, even amid the numerous changes, robotics teams have not let the pandemic stop them.

At Gutierrez Middle School of Arts and Sciences, the team started meeting on October 22. They started with about three students in their Zoom meetings, but they have begun to gain more members and continue working to prepare for the competition.

“We are having to navigate our way around communicating with students via email, Zoom, and face-to-face meetings,” Caballero said. “We have started ordering equipment, setting up our obstacle course for competition, slowly building our robot, and looking for local mentors in our community that have coding and engineering experience.”

The Gutierrez team is currently being mentored by a Harlingen School of Health Professions alumna, Miranda Cano.

“We have a Texas A&M college student that is a volunteer mentor helping our team this year; she has experience with FTC Robotics,” Caballero said.

At Harlingen High School, the robotics team is looking forward to meeting in person soon.

“My team has been meeting on Zoom to discuss design options and points strategies,” Tenison said. “We hope to start building next week with students working on different components independently. Remote students can work on marketing, outreach, and the engineering notebook.”

Ruben Hernandez, Harlingen High School senior and Engineering and Tech Club President is leading his team with a positive attitude.

“Instead of hands-on control on how we design the robot, we have to instruct whoever is at the school on how to build whatever components we need,” Hernandez said. “We are currently in the works on building a robot for our competition and we will not let a setback stop us. Our competition is planned to take place sometime in January of next year and we will be more than ready to face what lies ahead of us.”

All robotics teams and students vary in experience, but they all share the same amount of enthusiasm for building their robots. Together as individual campus teams and as an entire district, they are working to create another exciting year in the world of robotics at HCISD.

“I am excited to see how our robot will turn out before the competition, and I am sure that this year will be one to remember,” Hernandez said.

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