The nuts and bolts of the robotics team

STA introduces a new robotics team who will be competing to qualify in the “FIRST Tech Challenge” in January.


Science teacher Terry Conner explains her robotics course using her own homemade robot to potential students at the first annual STA elective fair on Jan. 12 in the Windmoor Center. photo courtesy of Kate Scofield

by Victoria Cahoon, Breaking News Editor

For the first time, STA is competing in a robotics competition after the new robotics team was introduced this year. Creating the team has been a four year process that began with the semester long robotics class that gives an introduction to programming and the step by step process of building simple robots, according to science teacher Terry Conner.

Conner wanted to create the class for girls interested in robotics that didn’t have the opportunity to explore the topic otherwise.

“I felt like we needed something that combined both the programming aspect as well as the building aspect,” Conner said.

Junior Kiernan O’Boyle, one of the students who took Conner’s robotics class last semester and who also helped found the team, said that after taking robotics one semester, she wanted to continue learning and go more in depth with the subject.

“[Junior] Mia Schloegel and I really bonded and enjoyed taking it second semester and wanted to continue doing it,” O’Boyle said. “So we talked to [Conner] who then talked to [principal of academic affairs Barb McCormick] and that’s how it really all started.”

McCormick had worked cooperatively with the administration, faculty and the KC Engineering Zone to bring a robotics team to STA. McCormick also attended a “First Robotics Competition”, which is similar to the competition that the STA robotics team will be participating in. According to McCormick, she saw having a robotics team as a great addition to STA’s STEM initiative.

“It allows girls to participate in all the roles that are involved in creating and competing in a robotics industry,” McCormick said. “From the building concept, to the design concept, to marketing, promotion and programming, it includes a vast number of roles and responsibilities within the team.”

So far, the team has a total of 15 members and meet three times a week from 5:30 to 7:30. The time was based off what would work best for everyone on team.

“We had to make sure people who play sports could be able to come,” O’Boyle said.

With the help of STA’s new robotics coach, math and computer science teacher Alexa Varady, the team will be competing to qualify for the “FIRST Tech Challenge” Jan. 21. There are several different tasks included in the game but this year’s main game is tossing wiffle balls into different goals.

“The FIRST Tech Challenge involves building and programming a relatively small robot [that fits in an 18 inch cube] to play a game, which is different each year,” Varady said.

But for Varady, the team’s main end goal is more about learning and fun than winning.

“The FIRST Tech Challenge isn’t about winning,” Varady said. “It’s about learning the process involved in designing, making, and using robots in creative ways.”