A Reflection on Robotics: Laura Wong (12)

Geoffrey Zhang, Staff Writer

Robotics is pretty much all of my social life, and we were really hopeful we would do well in 2019.

At the beginning of the year, we were still in the last season. We got further in robotics than we had ever been before. I had a good team; we worked really well together and we even went to nationals together. That was my first plane ride. [Though] we didn’t do too well, it ended up becoming a team bonding, since we liked hanging out with each other and we had fun. There were floods and [everything] was all wet, but we played freeze tag and hung out in an Airbnb together. We had nights where we just sat around in a living room and played games. We played Atlas, this game where someone says a country and someone else says a country that starts with the last letter of the previous country. We watched movies and just had fun as a team. I really miss those days.

But recently, robotics hasn’t gone that well. This year, we have so many seniors on robotics. And when you combine that with QUEST and Senioritis, many don’t end up coming to meetings. We haven’t been able to collaborate as well and find that chemistry we used to have. We started having less meetings each week in the fall, and it grew concerning. I eventually decided to step in and move all the robotics equipment to my house so that I could work on the robot more often and step up to become team leader.

I wasn’t a good leader; I’m not very assertive so that was a major issue. People [also] didn’t want to come back after seeing how bad previous meetings went. And because of that, we didn’t have enough people to cover all the roles we needed. I ended up needing to learn how to code, which wasn’t very great. One of our newcomers was also unable to contribute as much, and we weren’t really able to teach him or give him things to do. We ended up disproportionately distributing work.

Now, our team’s season is over early, and I feel especially sad because our last memory is having a team falling apart. As team leader right now, I also feel bad for the two first-year members we have, since we gave them a bad foundation for their future years on robotics.

Robotics was a distraction from my schoolwork, but it wasn’t like I was going to study much if I didn’t have robotics. Robotics is something I wanted to do because I wanted to do it; I wasn’t forced into doing it. In a way, robotics made me want to study because I felt like I was being productive doing other things.

I do know that I’ve been forced to learn how to become more assertive because of robotics. I used to be very shy, but I wanted to be more involved [in robotics], so I started forcing myself to ask how I could do that. That was a big thing for me last year when I did documentation and had to ask people on my team what was going on with the robot. When I had to step up as team leader, I also had to figure out what we needed to do and how work would be distributed and let everyone know what was going on. In terms of the future, I guess, robotics also is what got me into engineering, so I hope to be doing that in the future too. I want robotics to be the fun thing I do, but I don’t want to be forced doing it. But I guess I’m planning on majoring in mechanical engineering because of robotics, so we’ll see how that goes. 

I guess I got a lot of my friends last year thanks to robotics too. I don’t talk to people outside of projects I’m working on, but robotics has allowed me to talk to people outside of school. I also learned that I could force myself to speak up and talk to people and that people don’t care as much about the little things as I thought. People aren’t generally jerks, and if you try to open yourself to them, a lot of people are willing to listen. That was something I learned after robotics when I started to try getting closer to some people, and now I hang out with them and they are supportive of me.

While the season is over, I’m still hoping to build some non-competing robots for fun and training some of the newcomers with more help. It’s strange really. The season has ended, but the school year isn’t even half done. I’m also headed to college soon, so I’m going to have to start learning how to adult, which is something I’m not anticipating. Hopefully, I won’t regress once I leave home and become that loner with cats in a few months.