Roborams Rebound after FIRST Shutdown


Kaylee Lemons, Co Editor-In-Chief

On March 11, 2020, MV’s Roborams headed to St. Louis, excited to participate in their annual FIRST Robotics Competition. Unfortunately, March 11 was also the day the World Health Organization declared the Coronavirus as a pandemic. 

“We had already set up our pit and started working on our robot. They told all the teams that were there at the last minute that, due to the severity of the virus, they had cancelled everything,” recalled Parker Cotton, ‘21. 

“We got to the competition, and ten minutes in we were notified that it was cancelled,” said Ben Houle, ‘21. 

“We unbagged the robot, started cranking a few wrenches, and were ready to get it weighed and past inspection as soon as we could. Then I got pulled to the side and told we’re going to have a coaches meeting. Instead of doing a coaches meeting, they just made an announcement that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, FIRST had decided to shut everything down,” explained Mr. Dustin Foster, Mentor.  

The Roborams had a successful season leading up to the competition and were confident in the robot they had built, causing disheartenment throughout the team following the cancellation. 

“Our robot was one of the best we’ve ever had. It is an extremely capable machine. This past year we didn’t have a build season, they just let us build until our first competition. We were really excited about being competitive,” expressed Mr. Foster.

“Everyone was very disappointed because all of the work we put in the robot was for nothing,” said Houle. 

After returning home from the competition, the Roborams threw a party to lift their spirits. The team maintained that positive attitude as they moved forward through the summer and into the new school year. 

Over the summer, the Roborams made a substantial amount of masks, distributing them throughout the community to local fire departments. 

With the 2020-21 school year now in its fifth week, the team is continuing to support the safety of MV’s community and students by adjusting their normal procedures to accommodate for COVID-19 regulations. 

“Luckily for us we have different departments, so for us it’s kind of simple. We just split into our separate departments and keep a max of about 15 people per room, as well as keep all the other regulations in place such as masks,” explained Mr. Foster.  

“We have had to be creative. We are trying to have meetings outside so we don’t have to wear masks. Now we are trying to plan our recruiting with all the new regulations. We are planning those to be outside too,” stated Mrs. Karen Slous, Mentor.

Due to the regulations, this year will likely look vastly different than what the team is used to. 

“We are all in uncharted water with what we can and can’t do. We are planning on trying our hardest to make it as normal as possible,” said Cotton. 

“I think we are not going to be able to bond as much because of the masks,” expressed Cassandra White, ‘23. 

“This year we may not even have a competition, so our goals will be a lot different,” said Houle. 

The team has already begun expressing their hopes and setting goals for the year, as well as planning both new and alternative events. 

“This year, no matter what, we’re going to make a t-shirt cannon robot,” said Mr. Foster.

“We are looking at moving our annual silent auction online and doing it virtually somehow. We’re also looking at doing a doughnut sale on October 17,” said Mrs. Slous. 

“I hope that we will be able to allow the new and existing team members that will be here next year a secure and steady team financially,” stated Cotton.  

Despite the uncertainty of their normal competition season, the team is still aspiring to compete. 

“I do believe there is a good possibility we will compete. What that will look like and when it will be I don’t know. I would imagine if we have a competition that looks anything like what our competitions usually are, it would be this summer,” said Mr. Foster.

“However, the VEX Robots – the smaller robots – are allowing for virtual competitions where we can still build the robot and we can still compete. We just videotape our performance and record the score. So, as far as the robots we build in my class, that will still be happening and I’m really excited about that,” Mr. Foster added. 

For several team members, 2020-21 will be their senior year and their last year as a Roboram. 

“I am very sad that this will be my last year. This team has had such a special place in my heart. It is very unfortunate that my last year as a Roboram is the same year as a global pandemic, but I am going to make the best of it!” expressed Addy Choate, ‘21.

“Honestly, this is not how I would’ve liked to end robotics. I would rather compete in a new competition. However, I think that I will still be able to gain a lot from this year,” said Houle.

The Roborams will kick start their year with a new members meeting, tentatively scheduled for September 28 and 29.