Reaching New Heights

Westminster's robotics team takes on a new and exciting challenge requiring teamwork.


Juhyae Kim

Matthew Hoekzema, freshman, Brennan Murphy, sophomore, and Alex Kessel, junior, work on this year's robot.

On January 4th, the members of Cyborg Cats, Westminster’s own robotics team, gathered together to watch the broadcast of this year’s game.  They eagerly awaited the announcement, anxious to begin strategizing for the game and designing their new robot.

Finally, the announcement came.  The game’s title is Aerial Assist and requires teams to build a robot that could throw an exercise ball into large scoring goals at the top of the playing field to earn points.  In the center of the field, there is a “truss” that robots can also throw the ball over to earn points.  Robots can also earn points by working together and “assisting” each other in moving the ball across the field.  One way they can do this is by passing it to each other, such as in a basketball game.  This employs F.I.R.S.T’s idea of coopertition.

“Coopertition is founded on the concept and a philosophy that teams can and should help and cooperate with each other even as they compete,” said F.I.R.S.T’s website.

While the idea of cooperation is beneficial in promoting teamwork, it can prove to be a challenge.

“In my opinion, the biggest challenge of the year lies in our dependence on other robots. This year, all the bonus points — necessary if you want to win — rely completely on whether your alliance robots can catch, throw, score, and move the ball to you,” said Alex Kessel, junior and the team’s Chief Engineer.

From it’s beginnings three years ago, Westminster’s team has grown enormously.
“The more team members we have the better equipped we are to accomplish our teams mission ‘to honor God while building a community that nurtures a love for science, technology, engineering and math through excellence in workmanship, and leadership by service.’  People need to understand that our robotics team is about so much more than just building a robot!,” said Lisa Harding, the team’s lead mentor.

While it is a common misconception that the Robotics team soley consists of the students who are good at math and science, the team actually consists of many different people with a variety of talents.

“Our team is amazingly diverse, with an impressive array of talents and interests that are all used in the program. The engineering side is really only part of it. Half the people on our team work on things completely unrelated to engineering, like contacting professional companies or designing billboards. Robotics is not only a great place to learn about things, but also to learn how to work with people and be patient with them. That’s harder to do than you’d think, but it is extremely important,” said Kessel.

The Cyborg Cats are excited to begin their new season and continue to challenge themselves with navigating this new game.  The team will participate in two competitions this season, one local and one out of town.  To see the Cyborg Cats in action, be sure to visit the Chaifetz Arena on March 13th-15th.

More information can be found about the Cyborg Cats, F.I.R.S.T, and this year’s challenge on the team’s website: