This year’s FIRST Robotics Competition Games require high school students to design robots that throw oversized tennis balls into different goals on the field and climb horizontal bars to win points.
This might sound daunting to a layperson, but the students at University Preparatory High School feel more than up to the task.
As the team — which call itself Arborbotics — gathered on January 7 to find out 2022’s FIRST Robotics Competition specs, it would mark the team’s fifth year participating in the competition.
Arborbotics has six weeks to complete their robot.
But robotics doesn’t come cheap and the UPHS team not only has to build a robot but also has to conduct a fundraising drive.
Arborbotics hopes to raise $10,000 this year to keep the program running, further their community outreach program, and give students more of the valuable opportunities their team provides.
UPHS Robotics Team: Bringing STEM to Tulare County
FIRST means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology and is a nonprofit organization that aims to offer students an opportunity to learn about STEM, business, and community involvement. FIRST was created in 1989 by Dean Kamen, whose vision was “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.”
The only high school FRC team in the county, UPHS Arborbotics gives local students a rare opportunity to immerse themselves in a hands-on engineering environment.
In November 2021, Arborbotics won their offseason competition in Madera with the help of their partners—FRC involves teams of three competing to win each match, and the top two ranked teams of the competition selected the small group as the third member of their alliance.
The team began in 2017 when the school’s math teacher, Josh Curtiss, introduced FRC to his students. In FRC, students receive basic materials and an 80 page rule manual, then design, build, wire, and code a robot to compete with other teams on a field about the size of a basketball court.
With the support of their school, families, and community sponsors, the UPHS team successfully built their first robot and attended a competition, even winning the organization’s prestigious Rookie Inspiration Award.
This wasn’t easy—the team started in the back of a math classroom with limited funding and a lack of tools in a program where teams often have access to $50,000 budgets and dedicated building space—but the members worked to find the resources they needed to succeed.
Over the next few years, students wrote grant applications, contacted local businesses for sponsorships, and raised the funds necessary to attend more competitions.
This year’s competition means continued fundraising. So while the students learned about their new robotics challenge they also had to start strategizing how to pay for it.
These community oriented goals shaped the team’s mission statement:
“Arborbotics strives to have our team make an impact on our school and the local community. Our team works to ensure all students at UPHS have an opportunity to learn about STEM beyond the standard classroom. Our ambition is to provide a safe environment for students to make mistakes, ask questions, and learn through experience.”
To live up to their mission, Arborbotics reached out to other schools and organizations to work with younger kids on various STEM related projects, including building flashlights, coding LEGO robots, and holding multiple years of extracurricular robotics workshops with a local elementary school, and even virtually during the height of the pandemic.
The students volunteer at engineering related events, including the recent TCOE Expanding Your Horizons project aimed at helping girls find a passion for science, and are always looking for more opportunities to help increase access to STEM in their area.
An Arborbotics alumni said, “Robotics isn’t just about building a robot. It’s about learning skills useful in all spheres of life. I didn’t think I would be able to talk to my school district board, or organize a whole team of people. Robotics has given me the confidence I needed in myself, and in other people, to be able to push myself and change for the better.”
If you are interested in sponsoring the team, or have a volunteering opportunity for the students, please reach out to team mentor, Josh Curtiss: (559) 827-3889. Or email the team at [email protected].
If you’d like to learn more about the team, you can find their website at team6657.weebly.com.