How our Robotics Club shows Keystone ideals in action

Three teens building a robot
Feb 23 2024

How our Robotics Club shows Keystone ideals in action

“I ultimately got into robotics because for me, it was the best way to study intelligence.”
-Sebastian Thrun

Three teens building a robotWatching the Keystone Upper School Robotics Team in action is an absolute delight. The room buzzes with focused activity and teamwork as they assess situations, analyze possible ways to address challenges, bounce ideas off each other, and collaborate in ways that offer lessons for us adults. Their respect for one another and the collegial manner in which they confront issues is beautiful to behold.

The Upper Schoolers gather to take over the Flex Lab in the Shadfan Science and Creativity Building after school to work on a variety of tasks all geared towards the 2024 FIRST in Texas Robotics competition next week in Waco where they will face off against teams from other schools. Sometimes they work in pairs or groups to create their robot; other times, they focus individually on one component of an engine.

In some ways, robotics combines the best of technology and old-school industrial arts or “shop” as it was called in the day. Students use power tools while their teammates sit at their computers or access their phones to do high level calculations and program their robots. It feels like the perfect combination of working with their hands and working with their heads. I’m there to serve as a watchful adult, but I’m sure I gain more from them than they do from me.

Director of Learning and Innovation Ms. Antuna serves as the faculty sponsor for the Upper School Robotics club, and she recently talked about the spark that comes from her time with the young women and men. As she described it, “In the classroom, robotics offers a fun adventure, urging students to unleash their creativity, ignite curiosity, and cultivate innovation.”

This year, teams design a robot made of a combination of metal, wood, plastic, and plexiglass for the FIRST 2024 competition. Ajay, an 11th grader, explained: “In this year’s competition, we shoot “notes” (flat donut-shaped rings) into a target, place them in a bin, and climb off the ground. We compete with other teams to gain the most points by completing those objectives, and we strategize both offense and defense (blocking other robots). We also strive to exhibit “gracious professionalism” and “coopertition” at competitions, helping newer and less experienced teams and learning from veterans!” A longtime robotics competitor, Ajay explained the benefits and attraction of this activity:

“I have always loved building and designing things, and I am known by everyone in our grade as the person who loves everything that moves. So, robotics just makes sense to me! I am enchanted by each part of the process—designing, programming, constructing, and testing. But even if you aren’t someone who enjoys engineering, there is something that suits you. If you like PR and marketing, our business team benefits; if you like drawing, our design and presentation team benefits. Especially at Keystone, robotics has helped our whole team learn a lot about each field but also about perseverance and adaptation. I think I have learned so much from leading the club, and am thankful to Keystone for helping fund our opportunity!”

Good luck to the robotics competitors!

In previous years, Keystone students have excelled at this robotics event, like they have at other academic competitions. To name just a few recent examples:

Middle school and 9th grade students swept 1st-4th places in the Speak Up:Speak Out regional competitions and are headed to state competition next week in Austin.

Upper School students took 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place in the San Antonio Academic World Quest competition, won the regional meet for the 15th year in a row, and advanced to national competition in Washington, DC.

In the 2024 Alamo Regional Science and Engineering Fair, four Upper School students advanced to the International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles in May, while nearly 30 other students either won their categories or received other high recognitions. Keystone as a school also received three awards.

Whether in robotics or other competitions, Keystone students perform at a high level individually; as teams, they stand out from their peers in other schools. They support one another, they cheer each other on, and they help each other be their best. However the robotics team does in competition, we can admire their work ethic and teamwork.

On a daily basis, Keystone students give us reasons to be proud. They demonstrate a high level of performance in their classes, in the theater, music room, art studios, gyms, fields, and courts, and they compete with heart and sportsmanship. They push themselves and their peers to impressive heights, often modeling the best in high level thinking and collaboration. We are fortunate indeed to work with them.

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