First stop Denver, next stop San Jose

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First stop Denver, next stop San Jose

Ridgebotics members pose at their Saturday competition.

Ridgebotics members pose at their Saturday competition.

Luke Bodine

Ridgebotics members pose at their Saturday competition.

Luke Bodine

Luke Bodine

Ridgebotics members pose at their Saturday competition.

Isabella Mahal

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On Saturday, September 22, Fossil Ridge High School’s robotics team, known primarily as Ridgebotics, competed in an off-season competition in Denver. This marked the first opportunity the team has had for the school year to test their robot against other schools, and Fossil was delighted to walk away with a second place finish.

Luke Bodine serves as management lead for the club, a position that is relatively equivalent to president. He explained that the purpose of the Colorado Energy Day challenge was less competition-focused for Fossil, and more of a way for newest members of the team to get an understanding of what a competition is like. It also provided a chance for the team’s new drivers to practice in a realistic setting, and Bodine said that one of the driver’s biggest takeaways for the day was that, “they can’t drive the robot really fast around corners.”

Fossil’s Ridgebotics team operates two vastly different aspects each year. As a member of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization, the club builds a robot each year that must accomplish a certain goal, which is released in January. For example, last year’s challenge involved maneuvering one’s robot to stack milk crates and gain ownership of the field, while simultaneously working with two other teams and against three others. The team has six weeks to complete their robot, including all building and programming, before having to bag it up until competition day.

On the other hand, though, the team also does outreach programs in Northern Colorado-area schools to help foster a love of science and technology in elementary and middle school-aged children. Many Ridgebotics members came from Lego Robotics or similar programs in their middle schools, and the team hopes to pass a passion for the subject along to those younger than themselves.

Ridgebotics mission statement explains that the club “exists to give students the chance to have fun while innovating and acquiring real world experience.” Particularly for Fossil’s team, FIRST team 4388, there is plenty of experience to be had. The team competed at the World championship in 2017 in Houston, Texas, and has also traveled to San Diego, California and Arizona in the past. Next weekend, they’ll be heading to San Jose, California, for a prestigious competition that is by invitation only.

However, Bodine explained that Ridgebotics goes beyond building robots. He feels like “we’re really viewed as a nerdy club, because, well, it’s robots, but our biggest club crossover is football, actually. We have more football players on our team than any other club has on theirs. It’s something that anyone can get involved with; it gives you so much more experience. And we all think we’re pretty cool.”

Currently, the team is running two meetings per week, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays after school. However, come the first Saturday in January, they’ll be spending every day after school until 9 or 10 p.m., as well as a 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift on Saturdays, in order to perfect their robot.

Ridgebotics boasts something for everyone, whether that’s engineering, programming, or marketing. Anyone can join whichever aspect they’d like, and Bodine explained that it usually takes students until their sophomore or junior year to find where they really belong. For as long as someone wants to try new things, the club remains a family.

Next time you see a Ridgebotics member in the halls or on the track with the t-shirt cannon, congratulate them on their finish at Colorado Energy Day and wish them luck at their competition in San Jose.