How Iron Panthers achieve greater success

 Junior Raja Poda, sophomore Junha Park, junior Robby Shield, and sophomore Darrion Chen (left to right) work on prototyping an intake system.

Junior Raja Poda, sophomore Junha Park, junior Robby Shield, and sophomore Darrion Chen (left to right) work on prototyping an intake system.

The Iron Panthers, a group of 70 robotics members with a shared passion for technology and motivation to learn and contribute, are setting the bar higher for themselves this school year. They have built upon previous experiences to develop a more powerful and competitive robot for the San Francisco Regional and the Silicon Valley Regional FIRST Robotics Competitions (FRC) from March 16 to March 19 and March 29 to April 1, respectively.

Robotics is a year-round extracurricular activity that requires immense dedication, energy, time and teamwork. Members meet for four hours a day during the build season and two hours per day year round. Behind the curtains, the student-run robotics team is led by two captains with three subteams: engineering, programming, and business. This structure increases the productivity of the team because each person focuses on a specific task and problems can be solved in smaller groups.

The team’s efficiency led to a successful completion of a competition-ready robot for the March FRC, which they were only given six weeks to build.

“Over the six-week build period, it was incredibly hectic,” junior and programming lead Adam Noworolski said. “Programmers could be seen running from place to place, trying to test particular pieces of their code, all while other groups continued to plan for more additions.”

“We spend about six to eight hours talking strategy and figuring out a game plan,” sophomore and engineering lead Max Kober said. “Then, we designed the robot on a 3D computer-aided design modeling software. Then, we milled out the parts in metal and began to assemble. Meanwhile, our programming team was working on the code. Once all this was assembled, we tested and debugged. Lastly, we bagged the robot at the end of six weeks and couldn’t touch it until competition day.”

Since they cannot access the robot until the day of the competition, the team decided to build two robots, one to compete with and the other to practice on.

“We had to make twice the parts for everything,” Kober said. “However, it allowed us to push our boundaries as a team and really showed off all of our skills. Our business team had to raise almost twice the amount of money.”

“Engineering leads, such as Max Kober and Stella Yang, worked continuously,” Noworolski said. “Programmers such as Austin Soohoo, Justin Lee, Serena Haddad, and Daniel Yu helped write most of the code for driving. David Tarazi, Rory Douglass, and Isabel Dominik were incredibly helpful for mechanical structuring and wiring. Overall, there were some people who worked incredibly hard on the robot, and their work has made a serious impact. But I stress that without everyone on the team, these robots would not be in the fantastic condition they are in now.”

Despite all the work, the Iron Panthers truly enjoy what they do and have fun in an inclusive environment where everyone can bond and learn in times of stress and triumphs.

“The people on the team are doing the things they love,” junior and electronic lead Isabel Dominik said. “In addition, everyone on the team becomes close with one another throughout the year making the time spent at robotics more fun.”

“Students love the feeling of being on a team and working together to design, build and market a great project together,” robotics teacher adviser Christina Wade said.

Robotics encompasses many skills that can be transferred to the tech industry.

“The leadership, collaboration, design, and project planning skills they learn are invaluable as they move on to careers in the Bay Area and beyond,” Wade said. “We try to model after industry and the way it operates. We do design, manufacturing, project planning, marketing, financial planning, social media integration and much more.”

Posted on April 10, 2017 .