Robotics disappointed but looking to the future

Empty Stands at The Wave at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, January 2020 – photo by Ms. Vicky Kreider

With Virtual Haverford underway and students forced to remain at home due to COVID-19, the robotics team has anything but good feelings. The 2019–2020 VEX Robotics season was cut short just before the World Championship. The cancellation was a disappointment for those in the robotics program since the primary goal each season is to attend and perform well at the championship.

     “For a lot of the boys, the robotics season starts when they’ve qualified for Worlds,” robotics coach Mr. Adam Myers said. “They work so hard from September until March building and iterating and competing, but it’s once they’ve qualified that the real trajectory of their paths is set.”

Mr. Myers talking about the Robotics program – screenshot by Austin Zhuang ’22

     The inability to compete left many of the students disappointed and discontent with the abrupt ending, especially those in their final year.

     “I’m disappointed because you worked hard for three years for your senior trip to Worlds,” Sixth Former Aditya Sardesai said. “This was the year you were supposed to do the best you’ve ever done, but now that opportunity is gone.”

     Like their older counterparts, the underclassmen also felt let down.

     “It’s really unfortunate because we put so much time and effort into robotics,” Fourth Former Elijah Lee said. “While I wouldn’t say it was for nothing, it still sucks not to compete.”

     The students, despite their disappointment and isolation, however, are continuing to interact and work with each other to improve the program and prepare for next year.

     “We’ve been planning and scheduling a curriculum to teach new students and incoming freshmen interested in joining the program,” Sixth Former Daniel Chow said. “There are already potential plans laid out for next year.”

“We’re revamping our code database, we’re rethinking our [work]shop, and we’re just doing a lot of housekeeping stuff that we didn’t have the time or the ability to do because we were competing.”

Aditya Sardesai ’20

     This preemptive planning is not uncommon for robotics, but the extra time has sent it into overdrive.

     “We’ve started to think about trying different stuff out and learning new skills over this social distancing period,” Sardesai said. “We’re revamping our code database, we’re rethinking our [work]shop, and we’re just doing a lot of housekeeping stuff that we didn’t have the time or the ability to do because we were competing.”

     The ability to improve the program itself is now the primary focus for many of the individuals, but the free time is rewarding in other ways as well.

     “[The cancellation] if anything is a small blessing,” Lee said. “It gives us a lot of time to do a lot of things we’ve been putting off in our own lives.”

     The students are disheartened that a successful season goes to waste, but they continue to collaborate and plan ahead for what is to come.

     “The program as a whole will be fine,” Chow said. “We just have to move on to next year.”