Choate Robotics To Launch New Signature Program

On December 1, a new signature program, Advanced Robotics Concentration (ARC), was approved by Choate’s administration to go into effect for the 2018-2019 school year. This program is a year-long sequence of courses consisting of two core classes – one in the fall and the other in the spring. The program is centered around the FIRST Robotics Competition in the winter. In order to prepare for it, students will take a winter class and participate in the afternoon lab in lieu of a sport. The competition itself applies more advanced skillsets than the VEX competition that the Choate Robotics team currently does.

Participants of the program will be accepted based on an application process. It is open to rising fourth, fifth, and sixth formers who have approved experience or have taken prerequisite courses such as Intro Robotics, Robotics II, Reverse Engineering, and Topics in Engineering. Mr. Andrew Murgio and Mr. Kyle Di Tieri, faculty advisors to the Robotics team and key coordinators of the program, hope that ARC will improve Robotics at Choate as a whole by letting students take on greater challenges and apply knowledge to real life examples.

The first course of the ARC program is Robotics Design and Fabrication held in the fall term. In this class, students will learn how to be accountable for their own work rather than relying on a team. They will learn to design their own robots from the ground up and will be taught valuable skills including “soldering, testing circuitry, CAD design, wiring, electrical prototyping with a breadboard, fabrication with power tools, programming with appropriate languages, and project management,” as states the course description.

The second course is Autonomous Robotics during the spring term of the program. This course builds off of the fall term, as students will use their personally designed robots and make them autonomous, meaning the robots will be programmed to move and interact on their own. Mr. Di Tieri said, “We were worried when we were making this signature program that the goal for autonomous robotics would fall to the wayside, so we wanted to make sure there was a course specially created for students to hone in on it, because autonomous robotics is a current hot topic. Autonomous cars and drones have becoming increasingly popular. Students who graduate from Choate should be prepared for that.”

The purpose of having a course in the fall and another in spring is to supplement the skillsets that the FIRST Competition lacks, such as self-reliance and an understanding of autonomous robotics. Mr. Murgio and Mr. Di Tieri took the material that this advanced competition lacked and put it together in their own courses. Students not in the ARC program will be allowed to enroll in the fall and spring classes if spots are available, but ARC students will have priority.

The focus of the entire program is the FIRST Robotics Competition in the winter. To prepare, students will program their robots during a class period, in addition to focusing on it outside of school during the afternoon lab portion of the course. This competition is a step up from VEX Robotics, which is the current focus of Choate’s team. Each year, the challenge of the VEX Competition is announced the spring before, giving participants months to prepare. However, the FIRST Robotics Competition allows only six weeks of preparation. During those weeks, high school teams around the world create robots weighing up to 120 pounds with advanced technology. Mr. Di Tieri said, “Choate is very rigorous, and time is hard to come by. When deciding whether or not to establish ARC at Choate, we looked at peer schools to see if they have implemented similar programs and not many have, which made us question whether or not we should. However, we found that the schools that do have it have very strong students in their programs. The value behind it is extremely important in terms of the skills that you learn in the program.”

Photo courtesy of Choate Robotics

Next year, Choate will participate in the FIRST Robotics Competition

Will Wu ’19, an active member of Choate Robotics, is excited to see what the new program will offer. “For the students who already have had experience before, it will be a step up and an extension to what we have learned in the past curriculums. It will be a more challenging course for us, and as Robotics people, we definitely love the challenge,” he said.

Nandini Erodula ’18 is one of the captains of the Robotics Team and has taken all of Choate’s Robotics courses. Though she will graduate in the spring, Erodula is thrilled that Choate is making great strides in improving the robotics program, especially concerning the autonomous portion. She said, “The program is made for students to create robots that are autonomous, which means that they can adapt to the environment based on their initial programming. This is something we’ve never done at Choate.”

Mr. Murgio has wanted to get Choate involved with the FIRST Robotics Competition and create an ARC program since the start of Choate Robotics. He said, “We want to get a larger number of students involved in taking robotics courses rather than just being involved with the team in the club. Most significantly, we want to expose the most interested students in a higher level of competition and design and more advanced work than they are currently doing, which will be better preparation for students that might want to go into engineering.”

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