Motivated by Machines

MCA Robotic students continue to attend local tournaments, practice hours after school and push towards their state competition later this year.

Video by Lakin Zamorano


Photo by Bridget Johnson

MCA Robotics teacher Zach Helgesen works with Evan Rogerson to prepare a daily practice round and discuss strategy before a Saturday round. The Engineering strand features seven classes at MCA for students interested in engineering, robotics and other technical fields.

Cevin Montgomery, Bullseye Repoter

There’s a certain level of technical skill and creativity that go into making a robot in Zach Helgesen’s Robotics class.

With many clubs and organizations unable to travel or compete at Maize High and Maize South, MCA Robotics has still been able to get together to craft their robots, compete at weekend tournaments and continue doing one of their favorite hobbies.

The Robotics Club gets a different game from Vex Robotics every year, with this year being a tic-tac-toe like game with four players. The game also has an autonomous period, where nobody can control their robots, and the robots have to play the game with no outside input. 

The students have been working very hard to prepare their robots for the competition by spending hours after school during the week (even coming in on Wednesdays) to program and build their next mechanical masterpiece.

“Our competition teams are very, very competitive, and they want to put in a lot of hours to be able to be competitive,” said Helgesen. “There’s definitely a communication element, a teamwork element. And, the perseverance element.”

On top of that, they have a new assistant coach in Jim Pugh (recently taught at West High) and they’ve been able to physically be in the classroom social distancing, wearing masks but still able to build and modify their robots. Mr. Pugh has been helping out a great amount in the recent month for both students and the head coach, even helping to build a classroom platform for the group to practice on a second field of play.

Having an assistant coach has been great, especially having one that actually knows a lot about robotics because he can actually help the students,” said Helgesen. “It’s been great having someone who can fill in when I’m not able to be here and give the students more opportunity to spend more time in the lab and work.”

Juniors Brylea Schmidt and Ben Gorman focus on a CAD model for their robot to help with the design of their robot that they built. The team recently competed in Hesston this past Saturday and Hesston usually serves as the site for state robotics each spring. (Photo by Bridget Johnson)

The club is mostly self motivated when choosing time to work on their robots but are constantly working to improve their own robot before they even compete on a Saturday.

“We all work pretty hard and push for new designs/mechanical systems to try and improve our robots,” said Maize South student Calvin Reed. “I regularly set out to fix a problem, run into a few fixing the one, and troubleshoot until it’s solved”

The club is open to everybody from both Maize South and Maize High, if you would like to join at some point, talk to Helgesen at the MCA or email him at [email protected].

 “It’s a little sad to me that a lot of times I get students who come in mid-year late in the year and they want to join it,” said Helgesen, “It’s really hard for me to get the word out there. So if you’re reading this then sign up, we’ll find out what the new game is in May for next year.”