In a season with a new instructor and twice the normal workload, Team 1662 Raptor Force Engineering still came out on top.
The team at Jim Elliot Christian High School competed in FIRST Robotics, a national engineering competition, and took home two Industrial Design awards this spring during competitions at University of California, Davis and Silicon Valley.
It means the team had the best-engineered robot of all entrants. It was a special achievement in Silicon Valley because NASA Team 254, known as the Cheesy Poofs and based in Texas, have won the award regularly for years.
"It was an incredible honor to take this award away from them," said business team advisor Shelly Sherman.
As a result, the team is ranked fifth in California, one of the most competitive FIRST Robotics states with over 200 teams, and in the top one percent in the world. Raptor Force is the only high school robotics team in Lodi or within 25 miles, and the only team in the country to take home an international championship from Israel, an honor they earned last year.
There's an elementary school division, too. Lodi Christian School hosts the only Lego League team in Lodi, where students build devices out of Lego pieces. This summer, construction on Temple Baptist Church on Lower Sacramento Road will allow Lodi Christian School, and their robotics team, to join the school and church campus. This will allow kids on the elementary team to keep up the robot habit all the way through school.
The new instructor for the high school has 10 years of robotics experience, from building them on his own high school team to coaching upcoming teams.
Michael Corsetto has a degree in mechanical engineering from UC Davis, and was hired to mentor the Jim Elliot students.
The team of 25 students is split between the technical team of programmers, builders, designers and electricians, and the business team, which promotes the team and raises money.
How did they get so far this year? By building two robots.
Normally, a team has a 45 days to build, then the bot is covered in plastic and sealed until the first competition. But the team built a second bot, and continued to tinker and improve. Then, in the final moments before the competition, they added the changes to the first bot for a stronger, more effective machine. It's a legal move, since the students aren't altering the competition robot until the time allowed at the first competition.
"They wanted more time to practice driving the robot. This way we still had the practice robot in the shop to devote more time to training drivers and building spare parts,"
The robot was designed to throw Frisbees into a goal eight feet off the ground, and carry four Frisbees at once.
Making two robots doubled their costs, however. The team has a budget of $50,000 to cover the price of materials, travel and entering competitions, which can run up to $5,000 each. The school does not cover any of their expenses, including their instructor. The team is already running behind on their budget before they enter the next season of fundraising. They are closing the gap with extra fundraisers, but the work is worth it.
Sherman said the skills students learn working on the robots carry over into the adult world. Five seniors are heading to college to study mechanical engineering.
"For a town like Lodi, it's pretty exciting to show this is having an impact. There's nothing else I know of at this level that gives students the opportunity to get excited about engineering," said Corsetto.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.