‘Tis the Season… for Robots?

Shangwen Cheng, Staff Reporter

Team members working on the former W&L team’s robot. From left to right; Xander Haywood (freshman), Benito Esposti (senior), Noah Schaible (freshman), Dagny Schnitger (freshman), Samantha Wong (freshman). Photo by Shangwen Cheng.

If you’ve been following the robotics team (or are friends with any of its members, for that matter), you may have noticed an uptick in activity, following the return to school after Winter Break. If you talk to one of the members, they may mention a “build season.” What is it, and why is it so busy? Keep reading to hear a few team members explain.

What does build season mean?

Build season refers to the stretch of time between the challenge being issued and the competition dates, about eight weeks long. Using terminology similar to that of a sport, the name is widely used among the teams of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition (FRC). In fact, when typing “build season” into the search bar, “build season FRC” is the first suggested result.

What is the goal of the build season?

The team works as a whole to build a robot capable of completing the required tasks, which Trostin, a sophomore and veteran on the team, describes as “brainstorming and collaborating.” The game changes every year, often with complicated point systems to match. A freshman on the team, AJ, details the objective of the 2023 season as “picking up cones/cubes and placing them on elevated platforms”.

What, specifically, needs to get done?

From designing to testing to logistics, build season is filled with many moving parts. In late January, Trostin revealed a personal goal to finish the robot in time to practice driving. On a larger scale, the team must allocate funds, decide which parts to order and which parts to manufacture here at Arlington Career  Center, organize resources, and much more. There is also a growing art and marketing department within the team, which orders team t-shirts, hoodies, designs and makes pins, and organizes in-season fundraisers.

How does the team organize/plan?

Scheduling is organized by small groups of students to which a particular task applies, and is discussed and reviewed by the team at every meeting. “We have a menacing calendar drawn out on a whiteboard,” AJ says, adding that they go over deadlines to make sure they’re on track to finish in time.

How does everybody contribute?

Robotics is a place where go-getters excel. AJ alludes to the many lists of tasks that are made over the course of the season, where members can find something and simply get it done. And members aren’t simply limited to what they’re good at. “Everybody learns new [..] skills and uses previous skill[s] that they had,” Trostin explains.

How much sleep have you lost?

At the time of the interview, Trostin claimed to have lost no sleep to robotics specifically. However, he recently suggested pulling an all-nighter at a scouting meeting. AJ, meanwhile, takes a more literal approach, doing some quick math calculations. “There are eight weeks in build season, so eight Saturday meetings. I have to get up at 7 [AM] for them when I usually wake up at 10. [Three times eight is twenty-four],” he points out, concluding that the total is about a full day. He ends on a note most team members can agree on when it comes to the amount of sleep they get, saying that “With competitions? I don’t want to think about it.”

Team members organizing parts. From left to right; Jack Ploetz (senior), AJ Scally (freshman), Carson Driskill (junior), Jacob Ellison (junior). Photo by Shangwen Cheng.

Build season is an incredibly hectic time, when the robotics team works together to produce a robot capable of performing unusual and creative tasks. It requires each member to contribute what they can and more, and a level of maturity and organization that doesn’t match the stereotypical teenage attitude. The efforts of our robotics team paid off, and they recently competed at the Regional Week 1 event in Blacksburg, VA.

Keep tabs on our website for an article detailing what happened, a late-night, high-stress, and high-stakes three days, filled with snacks, fish, and incredible milestones for the team.



Trostin — Trostin Geles, sophomore on the team

AJ — AJ Scally, freshman on the team