Worcester Robotics Team Growing

BERLIN — Entering its third year, membership has exploded for the Worcester Beach Bots robotics team, which has also picked up a pair of professional engineers as mentors.
“This year, I feel like, is really the breakthrough year,” said Gary Qian, team captain. “In the past two years, it was really us asking people to join, but this year was really the first year I’ve been approached by people asking to join and if they can join.”
Going from 12 members in 2010 to having a confirmed 52 members signed up for this year, the team has grown much faster than expected, said Coach Michele Kosin.
“We’re going to actually have a JV this year because we’re going to have so many people in the program,” she said.
Kosin, a robotics teacher with 11 years of experience around the country, added that this Worcester County team has come together better than any she has seen before.
“This is probably the strongest team that I’ve had this early in the game. We’ve had tremendous support from the parents, the community and the students,” she said.
Some of that support has taken the form of volunteers like Richard Claggett and Daniel Peletier. Both are professional engineers who have been involved in high-exposure projects. Claggett was part of the team that worked on the Hubble telescope.
“During the developmental phase of the Hubble, I was involved with the science instruments,” he said.
Peletier worked on the Voyager program in the late 1970’s designing instruments for “partial detection to see emanations from the plasma from the sun.”
Both engineers have extensive education and experience outside of their involvement with the big name projects as well. And both first heard about the robotics team through the Kiwanis Club.
After the team gave a demonstration of one of the large robots that they built and use during competition, Claggett and Peletier quickly signed on and offered their insight. It had an immediate and positive impact, according to Qian.
“As soon as they came in, they suggested a really good idea and it worked great,” he said, adding that the team had been having issues with the feeding mechanism on their robot that Claggett and Peletier spotted and corrected.
The mentorship is productive for both sides, said Peletier. While the engineers bring experience, the students bring enthusiasm and a rare work ethic. the opportunities presented by the club represent much more than was available decades ago, especially in the realm of practical technology interaction, according to Claggett.
“It’s great to see the enthusiasm … this is the kind of thing you need to turn the country around,” said Claggett.
During the robotics competition season, which begins this winter, the students regularly put in 30 to 40 hours a week just working on club activities.
“And that’s on top of school,” said Qian.
Teammate Owen Dennis said that he considers Kosin’s house a second home, since the team usually spends a lot of time with their coach working on their bots. It has been a great group socially as well, said member Jacob Znamorowski.
“Even when we’re not together, we still talk to each other non-stop,” he said.
As they prepare for the start of tournament season in December, including a May tournament that they plan to host themselves in Ocean Pines, the robotics club will be bringing on more mentors like engineers and teachers. At the same time, team members will be mentoring younger students who want to be introduced to engineering and robotics.