WHS robotics team competes in Pacific Open

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The Winters High School robotics team put their knowledge, skills and steel up against other schools in the Pacific Open Robotics Competition this past June. With the guidance of their teacher/coach Dianne Halsey, and mentoring from a tech-savvy teen from the Harker School robotics team, WHS was able to put a dent in the competition. For years, high school robotics teams have been squaring off in competition. COVID put a temporary halt to these competitions as it did to so many other aspects of life. It’s in this hiatus that Harker School junior Nidhya Shivakumar sought to share her knowledge with the novice, yet ambitious WHS team. “I suggested to my coach that it would be great to continue mentoring online, and it was around early spring my coach informed me Winters High School would benefit from some guidance on how to build a robot for this season,” Shivakumar said about how she became WHS’s mentor. “I connected with Ms. Halsey and guided five of the WHS teams in a virtual environment. I created a curriculum and prepared videos and presentations on different subsystems of the robot each week.” If one harbors skepticism of a teenager guiding other teenagers, it’d be important to know Shivakumar and her robotics team won this year’s world championship. “I was impressed at how efficiently they built over the weeks I mentored them. Most of the time they were completely accurate, and it was a pleasure to teach them,” Shivakumar marveled at the tenacious work ethic of the WHS teams. “Initially, I gave them a pretty complicated design and they immediately grasped it. I learned they’re willing to work hard to make a good robot.” After soaking in Shavikumar’s knowledge, the team proved their mettle with metal and technological prowess at the Pacific Open Championship. In fact, in three out of the five squads that make up team WHS, reached the quarterfinals. “It was our first time so there were some butterflies and nerves,” robotics teacher and coach Halsey said about her team’s performance. “Our kids did so well with what they got out of the competition. They made friends, networked and asked good questions. The seniors were pretty excited too because they had a chance to compete before they graduated.” When a team reaches the quarterfinals, they can make an ‘alliance’ with a team that didn’t make it, and compete with them. They made a noble, if not loyal, decision. “The kids didn’t pick another Winters team to compete with. They picked another team who was there for the first time so they could get playoff experience,” Halsey said. “That team was gracious, and it was neat to see the kids make that decision. That was one of the best parts of the competition.” To help support the WHS robotics team, send an email to Halsey at dhalsey@wintersjusd.org for more information. Halsey is also promoting a robotics workshop for girls in grades 6-12 on July 31 and Aug. 1. Groups that participate must have three to four people. For financial support and more information about the $180 fee, send an email to Halsey.

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