Editor’s Note: This story has been updated as a previous version incorrectly reported the robotics team’s association with a specific school. The team, Team 5199 Robot Dolphins From Outer Space, is the Capistrano Unified School District’s varsity robotics team, comprising students from across the district.
The Capistrano Unified School District’s varsity robotics team gave elected officials in San Juan Capistrano a show this week by demonstrating the mechanics of their award-winning robot Trident.
The group of students comprising Team 5199 Robot Dolphins From Outer Space gathered at San Juan Capistrano’s temporary City Council Chambers on Tuesday night, Nov. 7, to show off some of the robot’s capabilities, in addition to boasting about the program’s benefits for teens and how it encourages youth to learn more about STEAM.
“We love to encourage students to get interested and excited about robotics, as it’s one of our core ideals of competitiveness and building a great family environment for students to learn more about robotics,” said high school senior Alan Tsai.
As part of the competitive aspect, the team participates in the robotics program known as FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The team is just one of more than 3,000 that competes through FIRST’s robotics challenges.
“The core values of (FIRST) are discovery, innovation, impact, inclusion, teamwork and, of course, fun,” said junior Aidan Lindsay. “This organization really hopes to inspire students to learn about STEAM and engineering, but also to create empathetic adults who will be able to solve the major issues of the world.”
Every year, FIRST will announce a new challenge for the teams, explained Tyler Allen, a junior. The team, which is largely made up of upperclass students from across the school district, will take the first six weeks of the season to understand all the rules of the competition and begin to collaborate on possible designs and potential solutions to FIRST’s challenge.
“We then test and prototype ideas to vet them for their validity,” Allen said, adding: “After that, we can finalize ideas, and then use computer-assisted design to sketch these ideas digitally, and have a platform to build off of. We then begin fabrication, where we use various tools to actually assemble the robot, and from that point, we continue to iterate and improve as the season goes on.”
The challenges, Allen noted, change from year to year. Last year, for instance, the teams had to design a robot that can shoot balls into a hoop in the center of an arena to score points. This year, their robot must be able to earn points by placing cubes on shelves and cones on posts.
A recent achievement for the team, Allen pointed out, came in San Jose, where they won a particularly challenging competition.
During the presentation at Tuesday night’s council meeting in San Juan, the team showed how the robot can hold and place objects, as well as throw inflatable balls—a part of the demonstration in which Mayor Howard Hart got to participate.
“Our main goal every year is to be reliable and be consistent, as that’s what makes us competitive,” senior Moises Martinez said, describing the robot. “A robot that works on the field is more valuable than a robot that might be complex but is not.”
According to the team, they’ve won five events with their robot, gaining six awards in multiple categories, including manufacturing, programming and team operations.
Councilmember John Campbell, who got to see the team compete previously at an event at Capistrano Valley High School, expressed joy in watching their presentation and offered words of encouragement for the students’ bright futures.
“I want to congratulate you on your passion. I really look forward to seeing what you guys have coming up in the future and how you’re going to help us,” Campbell said. “I mean, you truly are the leaders of tomorrow, and I’m very excited about the process.”