PCHS robotics is programmed for success
Florent Astié remembers participating in the first few years of the Park City High School robotics program. Student turnout was typically small, and those who did show up didn’t know much about robotics.
With the program now about to begin its fourth year, all that has changed. A year after two teams of PCHS students qualified for the Super Regionals competition in Sacramento, Calif., the program is flourishing — both in terms of quality and student interest.
"A couple of years ago, we had no idea what we were doing," Astié said. "We were still trying to expand. At this point, we’ve been doing it for three years, so as the veteran team, we know what we’re doing and we can help the other kids to figure out where they’re going. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for everyone else."
This year, PCHS will have three robotics teams, according to coach Sheri Prucka. The Ladybots — made up of both boys and girls — is the most experienced, consisting of many of the members who participated in Super Regionals last year. Error 418, whose name is based on an obscure web-based error, is full of young talent, as most of its members are sophomores and juniors. The Nigerian Robotics Team, a play on the Jamaican bobsled team, is mostly seniors in their first year in the program.
Together, there are 25 students participating. Elizabeth Prucka, a member of the Ladybots, said the success the program had last year has earned the attention — and enthusiasm — of the student body.
"A lot of people did hear about what we did last year," she said. "It shows by the number of people in our robotics program."
The teams will participate in their first event of the year — a scrimmage with teams from all over Utah and Idaho –Dec. 6. Astié said the unique thing about robotics competitions is the philosophy of "gracious professionalism," which engenders a convivial atmosphere among the teams, which are eager to help one another.
"It’s more than a team sport, it’s a team-team sport," Astié said. "You can learn a lot from the other teams and incorporate their ideas into your own robots. It’s really a great community to be a part of."
But as well as providing fun competition, Sheri Prucka said robotics can also open new possibilities.
"It gets the kids working very hard on science and technology," she said. "I’ve seen so many kids go from thinking they were not equipped for a career in science or technology to saying, ‘You know, I’m going to be an engineer.’"
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