ATASCADERO — The Atascadero High School Robotics Team, the FRC Greybots 973, held their annual gala event for team supporters and visitors March 9 in a new practice space off of El Camino Real.
Across the drive from a martial arts dojo, the team showcased the sporting discipline and teamwork ethic they’ve learned through years of participation in their own extracurricular activity, which actually became part of the available curriculum at Atascadero High School recently.
There are two major competitions left for the team this season after returning last week from victory at regional competition in Orange County. They’ll next head to Sacramento, March 21, and on to face international competitors in Houston, Texas, on April 16.
Part of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) nonprofit league founded in 1989, Team 973 is the local face of a high school program aiming to teach professionalism with science, engineering, technology and math.
The challenge this year has been to design a robot capable of fulfilling the mock-assignment of constructing and loading a “cargo rocket” on Mars. “Operation: Deep Space,” celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon landing, led the team to build the robot Io, named after a Galilean moon. Facing the challenge of a dust storm “blinding” control, the bots must have the ability to attach hatches on their own or via telepresence and load the orange cargo balls or “fuel pods” in the modular racks. The team works together on their own robot but each automaton also works with and competes with other devices in the arena.
Challenges change every year, but for the last 11 years, Atascadero’s team has competed in the finals.
A good part of their success has been tied to the mentorship of longtime team volunteers. Adam Heard, who started working with the students while he was attending Cal Poly, is leaving for the Bay Area at the end of this season, prompting past and present team members to collaborate on an emotional goodbye video presented at the gala event. Growing in his own career and starting a family during the time he’s worked with students, past team members told Heard that he’s not only taught them technology but also shown them how to be a man.
Team 973 president for the 2018-19 season, Drew Daner thanked all of the team’s local supporters and gave a status update on the progress of their record 26 students and six mentors as they’ve moved into the new space.
Accepting a certificate of appreciation from Daner, Atascadero High School Principal Bill Neely noted that he’s proud of the Greybots, as they’re the school’s only STEM-based team activity.