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In a typical year for the Robotics Team, members spend long hours in the robotics lab together, building and rebuilding their robots to get ready for tournaments. This school year, much of that work has gone virtual.

Although the pandemic restrictions on in-person building and competition have been challenging, the season—filled with virtual skills events and international tournaments—has demonstrated what makes robotics special: thinking creatively, developing solutions, and working together.

“At the beginning of the season, we were not sure that we would even be able to build robots,” said Puck Doboe ’22. “However, several students have been able to find space in their homes to work on their robots remotely, which has been fantastic. Even with the distance from Milton, a new student joined a returning student to build a fully functional robot together while doing Zoom classes from their homes in China.”

Nancy Jiang ’22 and Julia Wang ’23 have competed in China, where they have been able to enter in-person tournaments. In December, they qualified for the VEX Robotics China Championship and placed 53rd out of more than 100 teams from China, Hong Kong, and Macau. 

Even though in-person competition is limited, Jiang said, “the skills our members cultivate during this tournament season will definitely come in handy when we can finally all compete in person. This unusual year has provided us with a perfect opportunity to learn from the past and improve.”

It’s been more than a year since the team’s last live tournament in the U.S., but the team has recently returned to the lab, where they work together while social distancing. They have four robots ready for competition. Members are currently preparing for a remote event this month and hope to qualify for the regional tournament. 

“We haven’t had any wins yet this year, as we’re just getting started with the season, but we have a really talented team and are looking forward to showing it in future competitions,” said Ryan Shue ’23. Being able to see one another and resume in-person collaboration has been a highlight of the year for Shue, who noted that the Robotics Team’s time commitment and dedication are equal to that of any sports team. Four new Class IV members have shown a lot of promise for the future of the team, said Doboe.

Faculty mentors Chris Hales and Khizar Hussain have gone above and beyond in supporting the team this year, said Jiang. They sent the necessary parts to international students so they could work remotely, “and they have tried their best to accommodate the needs of every team member regardless of their geographical location or time zones. Mr. Hales and Mr. Hussain continued to guide, support, and encourage us, and we’re all very, very grateful for everything they’ve done for the team.”