For Allendale High School Robotics Team members, success in their spring competition was gravy on top of a season of friendship and intense bonding. Senior Zach Jones and Junior Zach Holmes were teammates who say that working closely together for hundreds of hours did more than create a winning robot: it created family.
This was Zach Holmes’ first year of robotics, getting involved only because he convinced his best friend to join him. He soon realized that there were new friends to be made over a table of math problems and engineering dilemmas.
“We worked in small groups during the season — we had a “design” group, a “build” group, and a “programming” group. But even though we were clustered with specific classmates, by the end of the season we were locking arms because we had gotten so close,” said Mr. Holmes who plans to join the Marines after his 2014 graduation. He intends to study mechanical engineering.
Unique to this team is the fact that it operates in partnership with other local high schools. This year students from Jenison High School joined, forming a team of fourteen young men: 9 from APS and 5 from Jenison.
Their goal, aside from crafting a winning robot, was to branch out into the community to garner support. By including local businesses, these students were able to make solid real-world connections to their work. For instance, this year’s robot frame was built by Laser Dynamics in Allendale. They also received sponsorships from numerous others.
In no less than six weeks, the team had their robot designed, assembled, and programmed to win. They spent over seventy hours of their mid-winter break perfecting the device, and said those long days solidified their personal connections.
“We really are one big family,” said Zach Jones, who also intends to study engineering after graduation. “We try to include everyone. At all times when we were working on something, we had at least five sets of hands inside the robot … it can be chaotic, but we all held it together.”
After an initial competition in Traverse City, the 2013 Allendale Jenison TriSonics team played “Ultimate Ascent” at the fieldhouse on Grand Valley State University’s campus in late March. In “Ultimate Ascent,” robots were challenged with collecting discs resembling frisbees, and then scoring goals with them. During the first 15 seconds of the game robots functioned in autonomous mode, relying on the students’ expert programming completed over weeks of preparation time.
The next 15 seconds allowed for the robot to be driven by teleoperators. Finally, in the final 30 seconds of the game, robots actually had to climb a pyramid! Points were allotted based on how high the robot climbed.
We are proud of this group for being named a Finalist and receiving the Team Spirit Award at the West Michigan District Event. But more than anything, we celebrate with them that academics and extra-curricular passions have led to wonderful friendships and a determination to pursue excellence far beyond the TriSonics competitions of high school.