By Jack Rubinger

Cleveland High School’s robotics team, The Pigmice (FRC 2733), recently wrapped up one of their most successful competition seasons at the FIRST Robotics Championships, also known as “Worlds.”

There are 37 kids on the team. Seventeen team members and three chaperones travelled to Houston, where 403 teams from nine different countries took part in the four-day tournament.

With support from mentor/sponsors such as Daimler, FLIR and Boeing, this tightly knit group of students raised all their own money, found grants and received support from friends and families.

Being a student-led team, the kids learned to make decisions about strategy and working together in independent decision-making.

Like athletics, Robotics competitors practice year round, utilizing YouTube videos to study up on the competition and learn the best techniques.

Robotics competitions get real loud as kids sing, dance and cheer each other on.

“For these kids, it’s all about collaboration and building community, including kids from other schools and young women. Kids help each other out by exchanging information and borrowing equipment when needed,” said Coach Cindi Carrell, a parent volunteer. “While some kids go on to engineering programs in college, right now they’re having a blast cheering on their friends and competitors and building goodwill.”

The Carrell family has been active in robotics for several years. One son graduated and is now a sophomore in college. The other son is a junior at Cleveland and has been doing robotics since middle school.

The competition in Houston was the culmination of many months of work. Students gathered at the beginning of the school year to learn the fundamental skills necessary to build a successful robot.

“There are a lot of people that stepped up to take on key roles,” said Carrell. “One quieter freshman turned out to be a great graphic designer and did a one-pager about the robot overnight. We were able to share that with other teams which helped get us noticed at World’s.”

The Pigmice also mentored LEGO robotics teams at Winterhaven, Hosford and Tucker Maxon schools.

Nathan Jesudason is a senior at Cleveland High School and the co-captain of the robotics team. Carpenter has become very close with the seniors like Nathan Jesperson on the team because they’ve worked closely together this past season.

Carpenter has learned many ‘hard skills’ such as manufacturing complex parts for the robot, coming up with designs, and using 3D modeling to design parts and systems.

Cleveland High School’s robotics team

“Honing these skills and seeing how applicable they are to the real world is easily my favorite part about being on an FRC team,” said Carpenter. “I am easily able to see how FIRST mimics engineering in the real world. The ability to work both with and against people is another very valuable skill.”

Carpenter believes that coach Carrell’s work on the team has been monumental to the team’s success, including logistical work for events and traveling, managing budgets and finances, helping procure materials and parts, helping with marketing and outreach, as well as assisting students who are looking at colleges or summer jobs.

Carpenter plans to go on to Oregon State University to study mechanical engineering and intends to move onto a career in robotics.