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Robotics Club students sitting at a table with materials.

Robotics Club: Preparing for a Tournament

Nutley High School provides a broad range of clubs to fuel students’ creativity and passion. The Robotics Club, overseen by Mr. Vance Campbell and Mr. Matt Cupo, is a mix of hard work while also having fun and working with others.


“Compared to a lot of clubs, we’re all pretty close to each other since we’re working together for several hours each week,” William Clay writes via email. “Even though we’re pretty relaxed, we always have things to do and I would say we’re pretty productive — especially when we kick it into high gear before a competition.” Declan O’Driscoll comments that it’s a, “cooperative learning environment where a bunch of people come together to learn about robotics”.


Meetings take place after school. Pre-Covid, it can be as long as four hours, but averaged two. During that time, all members are constantly working. In the pit, where builders are assigned, bots are built and tested there. Coders are seated at a table working on whatever is necessary, whether it’s the autonomous (self-controlling) robot or the teleOp (driver controlled). Members also discuss ideas, building the main robot, and work on side projects to further improve building/coding skills.


With the days leading up or prior to a competition, meetings may go up to 8 PM. Last minute adjustments to the robots are made within this period of time so it works smoothly when presented. Spare equipment, tools, phones (to control the robots), and so on are packed and triple-checked before the tournament.


Said tournaments are typically hosted in colleges with wide, open spaces. This allows a large area for the builders and coders to work. A finished robot and final code are required and will be presented. Pre-Covid tournaments would have the teams scope out others’ creations and possibly derive inspiration for their own robots. Now post-Covid, new parts to the robot are added and members work harder.


“However, just because it is competition day does not mean that we won’t have work to do. More often than not, something will go wrong, like a motor blowing out and motors will have to fix it on the fly,” explains Clay. “This year has been tough concerning competitions as Covid restricts our meeting time and we are given very little time to work. Still, we’re making the best out of a less than desirable situation and I am confident that we will perform well in our future competitions.”


Hard work is required for a club like Robotics, where prior knowledge and an open mind is also necessary. And that open mind learns more than just the technical aspects. O’Driscoll says, “Above all, I’ve learned how to work with people. The constant, large amounts of opinions and information circulating the club get very complex, but I’ve found compromises to incorporate opinions.”


“As a coder, especially this year, I had to become well acquainted with the Java programming language along with the specific FTC libraries that we use when coding our bot,” Clay states. “I’ve also learned how to use github, a version control software where other coders can edit each other’s creations easily. I really like robotics because the programming information I am learning now will be useful in the future and even gives me potential to get jobs in the STEM field in the future.”


Covid majorly interferes with day-to-day activities and enforces a less-than-desirable compromise and strict procedures. But the Robotics Club does their best to work their way through these obstacles nonetheless and operates intensively in their current conditions with the "new normal".