A well-oiled (Green) Machine

From left, team members Nate Carlin, Allison Schwoboda and Jacob Snyder prepare their robot for the first qualifying round at the Minnesota 10,000 Lakes FIRST robotics event held on April 7 and 8. (Sun Current staff photo by Ethan Groothuis)
From left, team members Nate Carlin, Allison Schwoboda and Jacob Snyder prepare their robot for the first qualifying round at the Minnesota 10,000 Lakes FIRST robotics event held on April 7 and 8. (Sun Current staff photo by Ethan Groothuis)

The Green Machine, Edina High School’s robotics team, competed at the Minnesota 10,000 Lakes event last weekend at the University of Minnesota, netting a multitude of awards and qualifying for the World Championships.
The major award was the Engineering Inspiration Award, which net them an automatic pass to the World Championships at the end of the month in St. Louis, as well as a $5,000 grant from NASA.
The team already won a different qualifying award – the Chairman’s Award – at the Lake Superior Regional in Duluth in early March, so it created a wild card spot for another Minnesota team to go to the World Championships.
The team also received the
Underwriters’ Laboratories Industrial Safety Award, which
celebrates a team that progresses beyond safety fundamentals by using innovative ways to eliminate or protect against hazards.
The Woodie Flowers Finalist Award was given to advisor Laurie Shimizu, which follows a student-submitted essay detailing how a team mentor inspires and challenges the team.
Overall, team members were pleased with the weekend event.
“It went really well on the side of awards for our robot,” sophomore rookie Morgan Sheehy said. “Then it kind of took an unexpected downhill turn, which was not what we were expecting.”
The Green Machine ended up being ranked 41st, which was partially due to robot malfunction, but also to the unique portmanteau used in robotics called “coopetition.”
During the competition, two collectives made of three teams each duel, each with opportunities to score points for their own robotics and collectively for their alliances.
As the event goes on, alliances change, and teams are ranked accordingly.
“We didn’t have strong alliances,” Sheehy said. “We were scoring all the points, where our alliance partners weren’t carrying their weight.”
The team was unable to overcome their technical difficulties by the end, but Sheehy was confident that it could get the needed repairs done before the World Championships at the end of the month.
For senior Amy Ma, robotics is not only an enjoyable activity, but an active part of shaping her future.
Ma is the business lead on the team this year, which involves fundraising, sponsorships and outreach.
“Our calendar is just full of outreach events,” Ma said. “Some are one-off events, like going to the Children’s Hospital and the State Fair. Others are more involved, like week-long camps and mentoring other teams.”
Ma was drawn to robotics during her 9th grade government class when the team came to talk about the advocacy work it was doing in Washington D.C.
“They talked about the stuff that they do that isn’t necessarily technical,” Ma said. “I was drawn to the interdisciplinary aspect of it all.”
Ma said that the vast majority of students on the team will pursue STEM in college, Ma included.
“Robotics really demonstrates why STEM is everywhere,” Ma said, noting that leadership and communication skills are also boosted through robotics.
Sheehy is also on the business sub-team as well as the build sub-team, which is in charge of the physical labor of putting the robot together.
Robotics wasn’t on her radar as a potential activity until some of her upperclassmen friends told her she would be good at it.
“I went to the Duluth Regional last year to kind of watch and see what it is like,” Sheehy said. “I fell in love with it. There is just something completely different about it – it isn’t like typical sports.”
She started last summer, and now it has become one of her biggest focuses – behind schoolwork, of course.
“Robotics is something that is really healthy for me,” Sheehy said. “I’ve been learning a lot more things than I could in a classroom, like talking to big companies like MedTronic, Seagate … I have experiences in 10th grade that most people don’t get to do. That I get to talk to sponsors and big companies … it puts myself in a position where I have to be under pressure, think under pressure. It is really valuable.”
The team will compete at World Championships April 25-29 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.