Robotics Balances Face-to-Face and Remote meetings


Elizabeth Secor, Editor

Although there have been slight changes due to the recent pandemic, the robotics club still meets to build, design, and bring metallic pieces to life.


“We have a mix of members meeting remotely and in-person,” senior Madeleine Lee said. “It would be kind of hard to build a physical robot virtually.”


Lee works completely remotely and sees the difficulties that Robotics faces from an at-home experience. 


“I would say the overall club experience has definitely been affected. It is not the same when you can not physically interact with the robot,” Lee said. “Even for those going in-person, the need to be careful has still changed the meeting experience a lot. Typically, we would do things like eating dinner together on nights when we stay late, but sadly we are not able to do that this year.“


Team dynamics are not the only change Robotics has seen, but also the same difficulties many clubs have, staying safe with COVID. 


“Robotics is a very hands-on activity, so it makes holding meetings much more difficult when we have to social-distance and be careful about what we touch,” Lee said. “It can also be tricky to coordinate between in-person and virtual members, especially when the connection is not so smooth.”


However, Robotics has found ways for everyone to participate no matter where they are working from, even with the difficulties. 


“I am a programmer this year. I think it adapts to working remotely better than engineering since I can research and write code from home, but it can not be done fully remotely since we still need the robot itself in order to test programs,” Lee said.  “Unlike last year, not everyone has an assigned role this year. Even previously, the jobs were still pretty fluid, but especially now with COVID, we all just have to work where we are and do what we can.”


Even with more leeway in what each member works with, the main goal is to build and program a robot that is ready for competition. 


“We will likely be doing competitions remotely. Instead of going to a competition, we send in a video of us playing through a match,” Lee said. “So the environment is a lot more constant than if we were to interact with other teams. Normally, variables like team alliances are an important part of the game, so there is a big difference from previous years.”


While having to adjust to support both virtual and in-person people, Robotics has found ways to utilize all the technology at its disposal, including communicating using Discord and text messages. They have also tried meeting using Discord, Zoom, Google Meets, and FaceTime.


“For programming, I’ve been using Repl.It to copy and paste code back and forth, which is something we usually would not do,” Lee said. “Like normal years, we still use onBot Java to program the robot and control it using the FIRST Robotics app on a pair of phones.”


Lee loves being in Robotics and would rejoin, even with the pandemic, as long as there is a club. Even Lee attends virtually; she knows she still has amazing team members, the robot, and a competition to win. She also sees Robotics as a good way to pass the time during COVID. 


“For passing the time, I feel like there are always plenty of things to do (I don’t think I’ve ever been bored during lockdown),” Lee said. “But [for me] Robotics is a more meaningful and rewarding activity than just doing small random things, and the experience is unlike anything I could do on my own at home!”