Strange Quarks

 robotic arm holding a trophy in its claw

Graphic by Natalie Jarvie | Washtenaw Voice

By Jennifer Wiland
Guest Column

The WTMC Robotics Team is part of the FIRST Robotics Competition, or FRC. Our official team name is Strange Quarks, and our official team number is 6101. We are dedicated to helping students learn and grow in STEM and business fields. Our team was started only last year and has quadrupled in size since the end of last season. Each year consists of a build season, a competition season, and an off season.

During build season, which we are in right now, teams have 6 weeks to build a robot that is designed for the competition, which changes each year. This year’s competition, known as FIRST Steamworks, is centered around a steampunk theme. Robots score points by placing plastic “gears” on pegs, which are lifted by a pulley inside a structure called the “airship,” and also by throwing “fuel” or wiffle balls into the high or low goal of the “boiler” structure.

Competition season involves three different levels of competitions: District Events, State Championships, and World Championships. During District Events, 30-50 teams from a certain region compete in a series of matches, going through Qualification and Playoff matches and earning Ranking Points in order to determine which teams go to States. Our team is going to two District Events, one at Pioneer from March 9-11, and one in Howell from March 30-April 1. If all goes well, we hope to make it to States or even potentially Worlds.

We participated in two District Events last year as well, when we were still a Rookie team. Although we did not make it to State-level matches, we received the Rookie All-Star Award at a District Event and were invited to interview for the State-level award. As stated on the FIRST website, this award “Celebrates the rookie team exemplifying a young but strong partnership effort, as well as implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology.”

Jennifer Wiland and Emmaline Ham preparing hot chocolate to sell for the WTMC Robotics Club Fundraiser.

Jennifer Wiland and Emmaline Ham preparing hot chocolate to sell for the WTMC Robotics Club Fundraiser.

Aside from our work in engineering and efforts towards competitions, our team has also been working toward the goals of building business partnerships and connecting with our community. Through this hot chocolate sale, which will take place in the Student Center on January 30-31 and February 1 from 9am-4pm, we hope to both strengthen our ties with our school community and provide the necessary funds to register for our competitions and purchase various materials for our robot.

Being a part of Strange Quarks has been an incredible experience for me. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been exciting to see all the ways our team has learned and grown since we started. At the beginning, we were just five students and a teacher at the kickoff event. We didn’t have the same sort of money or publicity or number of people as the older, more experienced team, but we had a passion and an idea. Through the help of a grant that covered our registration costs, the mentoring we received from Team 66/420, and the brilliance and dedication of all our team members, both those who started and those who joined since, we built a robot that competed effectively, learned a lot and had lots of fun along the way.

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