When he first met his creators -- nine York students -- he was a box of metal parts and wires and circuit boards. He had no body, no brain, no purpose.
Six weeks later, Vulcan the Robot was given all three by Team 5171, York School's first venture in the global First Robotics competition. With a grant from from NASA and mentoring assistance from the Naval Post Graduate School, the students built a prototype robot named Bessie and then, in six weeks, completed Vulcan’s robot body and added the programming for its "brain." Along the way, they also added the values of York's mission, as creative independent thinkers.
The new robot's purpose? Moving both independently and controlled remotely by students, throw a large ball through a goal while collaborating with teams from dozens of other high schools. Vulcan will compete in the regional First Robotics competition at San Jose State April 3-5, 2014.
The goal of First Robotics echoes York's school mission: "To inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering, and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership."
York is one of 237 California high schools competing this year. The York team name, reflecting the School's strong Latin studies, is Deus Ex Machina.
The robot construction ended on Tuesday, Feb. 18, the deadline for completion of the project, with a demonstration and practice on the Commons, and some last-minute tinkering. Two faculty coaches, physics teacher Jacob Hudis and Academic Dean Sean Raymond, three mentors from the Naval Post-Graduate School and several parents spent six weeks working on the project with the students after school and on weekends.
York Robotics Club president Nick Newman writes, "Robotics, more than anything, has been a distinctly strong learning experience. We all bring unique skills, ideas, and approaches that make creating a robot together inspiring and richly enjoyable. Now, the entire group grasps the basics of electrical engineering, workshop etiquette, and design thinking. Perhaps more importantly, we are learning teamwork and individual leadership skills that are so crucial for operating effectively in the real world. With the support of a dedicated team of adults, who themselves bring unique skills, ideas, and approaches, we've broken ground into a new and uniting project."
York team members are: Chris Calciano '14, Brian Clark '14, Evan Coleman '14, Ben Jacobs '16, Aaron Ray '15, Johnny Lim '14, Mayra Melendez '14, Nick Newman '14, and Rowan Herbert '14.