Introduction to robotics

Hermiony Garcia, Student


Robotics club offers hands on work and preparation for going into a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) based field for Morton West students. If you are interested in the STEM field or love to problem solve, you may want to consider joining robotics. Members meet every Tuesday and Wednesday in D107. The club has been around since 2012 and is sponsored by Engineering teacher Mark Stoch, Science teacher Justin Chang, and Business Education teacher Alex Ohlson. “We were initially approached by Northeastern Illinois University to have a sponsor for a club,” said Stoch. 

Morton West robotics team consisting of David Ortiz, Ethan Villarreal, and Sebastian won in VEX Robotics tournament.

There are two categories of robotics you can join: underwater robotics and VEX robotics. Underwater robotics is where new members tend to start, as it allows students to get an idea of how robotics works. In this category, the members have to create a robot that has to maneuver around an underwater obstacle. To test their creation, members use the Morton West pool. The robot you build will compete against others, the one that can complete the course best wins. VEX robotics is a good option for members who have more experience in building and coding and are confident in their skills. In VEX, you have to build a robot from scratch with your team. The robot you build will be entered in a competition where you will compete with other robots. The main goal of the competition is to get the most points by doing a set of tasks, such as throwing a disk into a goal or turning a cylinder to your team’s color. “Every once in a while we have qualified for the state competition, which when we went there last was at Niles North High School, but I think the state now going forward is down in Illinois State University,” said Stoch.

When asked why they joined robotics, Sophomore Julian Lemon, a sophomore said “I thought it would look good in colleges. I wanted to get a couple of scholarships before I go to college. It would look good on my resume”. Lemon’s partner, Sophomore Alex Martinez, responded to the same question saying, “My brother introduced it to me and he showed me how coding can be applied to many other careers such as a medical when he introduced and one I would like to apply for which is auto mechanics so it kind of ties in. And I’d also like to gain scholarship options and many more”. Those who choose to sign up for underwater robotics are given the same materials and prompts every year, due to it being a beginner-friendly club. Underwater robotics is a good category for those who want to have a taste of what robotics is and acquire skills such as soldering and precision cutting. Underwater robotics has challenges such as making sure your robot has the right amount of buoyancy as well as making components such as the motor waterproof.

Groupmates Ethan Villarreal, Sebastian Sithammavong, and David Ortiz, all juniors at Morton West, started their interest in robotics in sixth grade. In 2020, they entered Morton West and decided to continue their journey in robotics, joining the club. Sithammavong was originally in underwater robotics but moved into VEX, “I joined the same time he joined [Ethan] but I joined underwater because I wanted the experience. but when I kept doing the same thing over and over, I just wanted to do VEX the next eighth-grade year. And when I did that, it was way different because I could build, you know, whatever I want pretty much like my ideas.” said Sithammavong. The group faced a lot of challenges when building, but that didn’t stop them. Instead, they kept working until they overcame it. For Ortiz, trying to overcome problems was his favorite part. “You try to do something and then if you fail, you can retry it again and just keep working on it and figure out and test out what you can do with the parts you have” said, Ortiz.

Robotics could be described by Villareal as a club that “puts your critical thinking to the test. It brings out, trains you to be able to work under pressure, problem solve”. So, for any Morton student who is interested in a STEM field or wants to be challenged, robotics could be a great club for you. If you are interested in the STEM field or love to problem solve, you may want to consider joining robotics.