DHS Robotics Reaches New Levels of Success

Spencer Farber, Staff Reporter

Deerfield High School held its first ever robotics tournament on Saturday, December 7, 2019. The tournament hosted numerous teams throughout the suburbs, including three from DHS. The teams have been working hard over the past few months to ensure that their robots would be in peak condition for the competition. The robotics program at Deerfield has grown exponentially over the past few years, which has allowed for the sponsorship of three separate teams. Hosting the tournament helped showcase the great strides the program has made and is a testament to the hard work of the students, coaches, and parent volunteers.

John Bruss, a science teacher at DHS, is the head coach of the team. He is extremely proud of how far the program has come in recent years. “The last two years have had exponential growth. We had about thirty new kids this year, and there’s been a lot of growth and a lot of excitement,” Bruss stated. The program was originally combined with Highland Park’s, but it separated five years ago. Students have continued with the program due to their positive experiences, and are motivated to keep working at perfecting their robots. Robotics tournaments have the same atmosphere of a sporting event; they feature passionate, hard workers who have perfected their craft over months of work. Every match has nail-biting moments where audience members let out audible gasps and teams that are waiting hopefully for the results. At the tournament, the passion among teams was clear; teams were constantly piloting their robot in the practice arena to ensure that they were ready for competition.

Deerfield competes in the Illinois FIRST tech challenge. Each year, there is a new challenge for teams to take on. The challenge this year, called Skystone, puts two teams in a joint alliance in order to guide their robot to bring “stones,” or large lego blocks, within a set building zone. There are two periods: one in which the robot is not controlled by a driver and a period where it is controlled by a driver. During this first period, teams can also get points by being the first to bring over a special stone called a skystone. Then, during the second period, a designated driver from one of the team takes over and attempts to get as many stones onto their foundation as possible. The last thirty seconds of this period is where teams can earn bonus points by stacking a smaller object called a capstone on top of their block tower, and by moving their foundation out of their building zone area.

DHS sponsors three different teams: Warbots, Warinators, and CogChamp. Daniel Ziabicki, a member of CogChamp, has been on the team for two years, and has seen the team grow and improve. “Last year, we placed 13th overall in our region, and this year, we are first at the moment.” The improvement of the team is indicative of the hard work put in by its members, who stay hours after school in order to build and code their robot. During the tournament, CogChamp actually broke a world record for the challenge for having the highest point total without penalties (the record has since been broken). This showcases just how strong the robotics program has grown. Months of preparation went into ensuring that everything would run smoothly. The teams also must quickly adapt to working with new people on a whim during competitions.

Robotics can be an engaging and interesting way for students to pursue interests in fields such as engineering and coding. Ziabicki joined for that very reason. “It’s fun. You get to learn more about engineering, and it is a nice community,” Ziabicki said. Robotics can help prepare students for their future and get them experience in increasingly important fields. Jobs in coding and engineering are some of the fastest growing job markets today, and joining robotics has allowed many students to get a head start in learning the basics of those fields in an engaging way. Robotics as a whole has spread throughout the nation, with large competitions. The Deerfield teams hope to be able to continue their season at the state meet. CogChamp is the top rated team in the Northeast Suburbs, while the Warinators and the Warbots sit at 15 and 21 respectively.

The Deerfield robotics program has grown significantly over the past few years. It has gone from being forced to combine with another high school to being able to fund three different teams. It has attracted a wide variety of students with a wide variety of interests. It has expanded the creativity and knowledge of many students within the club. The club has built a strong sense of community that will serve them well as the competition season continues on. The teams have all worked hard to get to the point they’re currently at, and have put themselves in a position to succeed. The future is bright for the program, and Bruss believes they have nowhere to go but up. “We’re maturing as a club. There’s a lot more excitement, a lot of energy, more fundraising and opportunities to expand and grow and do new things.” The teams have all worked hard to get to the point they’re currently at, and have put themselves in a position of success for the future.