Haverford’s Vex Robotics Program stands as one of the top programs internationally. The team has won the Pennsylvania State Competition for the last ten years and has managed to rank third in the world. The team’s success is largely thanks to the great coaches and the tremendous amount of hours students spend perfecting their robots.
Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the school has prioritized in-person learning, forcing all extracurricular activities to a virtual setting. Also, priority has been placed on sports, with the school starting shorter, modified seasons.
Robotics practices indoors as well, but faces much less risk of students breaking CDC guidelines.
If Haverford is allowing the sports teams to practice, why is the robotics program restricted to a virtual environment?
There is no denying that the school’s reopening plan has all the necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of the dangerous virus. The school’s reopening was not only for academics but for the athletic program as well. Despite the delay of the Inter-Ac seasons, the school has still opted to run practices of the various sports offered in the fall, winter, and spring.
The continuation of sports like water polo and basketball, however, raises the question of why robotics is not allowed to hold practices at school. The aforementioned sports are played indoors where air circulation is minimal and social distancing guidelines are hard to enforce.
Robotics practices indoors as well, but faces much less risk of students breaking CDC guidelines. Firstly, all students will wear masks at all times, unlike indoor sports. Second, robotics allows students to stay socially distanced, minimizing the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.
“I think that if both take the right precautions, [some sports and robotics] should both be able to meet,” Fourth Former Roch Paraye said. “However, contact sports are not socially distanced, so the school’s reaction to being able to practice contact sports but not a socially distanced activity is hypocritical.”
To prepare for the upcoming robotics season, Sixth Former Owen Gormley hosted practices at his house over the summer. Attendees were able to follow social-distancing and mask-wearing practices. The success of these unsupervised practices shows that the team can stay safe while working, and guidelines can be further enforced by the coaches and mentors.
The size of the formal robotics room may raise concern, as it is smaller than would be necessary to comply with social distancing. However, there are other areas that could be used, such as the space outside of Ball Auditorium. As of now, the team is planning on hosting practices at various team members’ houses with limited people at each location. A big part of robotics, however, is communication within the team and having upperclassmen guide newer students in the right direction. A common practice area allows this to happen, but divided practices make it incredibly difficult.
With the robotics program being one of the most successful teams the school has, it is imperative that the same priority put on sports is put on robotics.
Conducting it in a virtual and divided setting places the team in a position of least success. If indoor sports practice at school, robotics should too.