They sat in humble silence as Matthews sung their praises, but when asked what their favorite thing about being on the robotics team was, almost all of them had something to say.
"You get to build something, and it's really hands-on," said Devon Dunmire, a member of the Torque Team. "Then, after you put all that hard work into it, you get to see a finished product, which is awesome."
The young men's team, the Robominers, is made up of students Nicolas Miller, Charlie Martz, Florent Asti, Brett Monty and Max Johansen. The young women on the Torque Team are Kayla Guillory, Devon Dunmire, Ellie Burton and Anna Buchman. All of the teammates are students in Matthews' Advanced Placement Physics class, and Matthews said it took a little bit of "arm-twisting" to get the young women to join.
"At first, they thought the robot stuff looked a little 'geek-ish,' but they started coming over and learning about the process," he said. "The guys were extremely helpful and took them through some of the basics, like how to assemble things and how to program. Ultimately, it culminated into them becoming a very solid engineering team.
The Robominers and the Torque Team took first and second place, respectively, at the Utah State Championship at Weber State University on Saturday, Feb. 22, and the Robominers II placed 12th. The Robominers will now move on to the Western Region Super Qualifier in Sacramento, Calif. from March 20-22.
A fourth team, the Lady Bots, took third place. They are coached by two parents, but they will be joining the PCHS Robotics Team next year.
The competitions the robotics teams take place in are part of the Utah FTC: FIRST Tech Challenge high school robotics program, "a community focused on building a better world for tomorrow by engaging high school students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)."
Monty, a member of the Robominers, is following in his parents' footsteps: his mother is an environmental engineer and his father is a _____ engineer. The Montys moved to Park City from Ohio, where Monty said robotics was "a big deal."
Upon discovering there was no robotics club or team for her son to join in Park City, she took it upon herself to bring a robotics program to the district. With the help of the local Home Depot and Rainie Ingram at the University of Utah, Weber State University was brought into discussions of hosting a Utah state FTC tournament.
Now, the Robominers are the first team ever to win the Utah state tournament. Matthews said his teams all demonstrated different quality aspects of engineering at the state competition, using their experience at a competition in Las Vegas in early February to tweak their robots and end up battling it out for first and second place at the state tournament.
The Robominers and the Torque Team were pitted against each other in the finals with the young men winning round one and the young women winning round two. In the third and final round, Matthews said it was a tooth and nail fight to the finish until the Torque Team robot's battery died, leaving the Robominers to win the tournament.
"The boys' team is very innovative. I use the term 'brash,' because they oftentimes jump into an idea and try it out, not necessarily always following it through to a quality product," Matthews said. "The girls demonstrated something that is ultimately why we need more women in engineering. They demonstrated teamwork, cooperation and working together to solve a problem, presenting ideas, discussing them and sometimes discounting them in a group decision."
Matthews said he was not surprised that his two teams duked it out in the finals, because it is a constant cooperative effort between the two teams that work very well together.
"It teaches you a lot of perseverance, a lot about the design process and a lot about how to work with a lot of different personalities," said Miller. "It teaches you what you have to do in college, the business world and the real world, what steps you need to take."
Miller's peers agreed and discussed the plans they have for after high school, most of them hoping for careers in engineering. Miller and Guillory would like to become mechanical engineers while Monty wants to go into computer engineering, Dunmire into geophysical engineering, Buchman is considering biomedical engineering and Martz aspires to become an entrepreneurial engineer.
Monty said he hopes the young robotics program, now in its third year, and he looks forward to the super regional competition in Sacramento in March. "It's a lot more intense than it sounds, but it's also a really fun and friendly community," he said.