Teams all over the world make a robot to compete against other schools, they form bonds, and get the experience not only needed for engineering, but they also learn useful lessons that they can use in any field after they graduate from high school.
TREAD was started in 2009, originally it was started with Mountainview, and then they separated, and made two different teams.
TREAD was started to give students an opportunity to see what it is like to work after high school. The TREAD coach, Christopher Zawislak said, “We started the robotics team with Mountainview because we wanted a more real world opportunity and we started TREAD because we wanted to give more of our students those opportunities.”
The students find out what the robot has to do during kickoff which is in January. The process begins as they start designing and building the robot. The students have to be able to design, and build the robot in six weeks; after that time, they cannot touch the robot, but they can still work on programming it, and practice driving a mule (a practice bot).
The students have to be able to solve problems quickly. If anything goes wrong on the field, they have to be able to figure out what happened, and how to fix it before their next match; As they only have a few minutes between matches.
When asked about competitions, Gus Bronk said, “During regionals a solenoid went out and the turn around between matches was only a few minutes, so I had to wire a new one in” The only solenoids “we had were different and I was unsure how to plumb it.” Bronk said, “I was plugging it in as the robot was on the field and had the suspense of seeing if it worked once the match started.”
This year, the first competition that the team was a part of was at Mount Vernon. The team had a bumpy start of the season. They had a few mistakes with the robot. During one of their matches, the elevator activated due to field and connection problems, and landed outside of the field. It landed on a ref, and got set on the ground. That was just one of the issues the team faced.
After that competition, the team worked on fixing the elevator, and updating the robot. The home game went a lot better for them. Their elevator worked better, but they avoided using it. They were able to pick up game pieces and place them on the lower levels. They also played defense when the alliance needed a defense bot.
The team didn’t go on to districts, but they still enjoyed competition, and they enjoyed being able to interact with people outside of AHS.
But, the robot isn’t all robotics is about. There are also awards for teams that have made an impact on their community. The biggest award that a team can get is The Chairmans Award which judges the past five years that the team has existed and their accomplishments. There are three things that have to be submitted for Chairman’s. The teams submit an essay that the judges get before the competition, with a maximum of ten thousand characters about why the team is the best out there. The essay also focuses on all of the people the team has helped, and the outreach they have done.
The team also needs to submit a video. The Chairman’s winner gets their video played for all of the other teams. The video should complement the other parts, and add any additional information that the judges need to know. It is often used as a tiebreaker, and most time the judges know who they are going to pick before watching the videos.
They also pick up to three members of the team to give a presentation. When asked how it felt to give the presentation, Alec Acosta-Vega said, “I’ve done it before, so I kinda knew the procedure for what to expect, but there’s no way to prepare for it because they could ask you anything about the essay, or your personal opinions.” Acosta-Vega said, “It’s kinda like a mock interview, so it’s interesting learning what it’s like to do a more professional interview.”
Not all of the awards are about the students, there is also The Woody Flowers Award which is about an outstanding mentor. The students pick one of their mentors to nominate for the award, and this year their nominee made it to compete in districts. When asked how he felt about it, Acosta-Vega said, “Personally I had the confidence that he would be able to advance, but it was a low chance because I knew who he would be competing against, but I’m happy Mr. Samms got the recognition for his hard work on the team.”
The team also does projects outside of competition.
When they are not busy doing other things, the team works on updating Buttercup. Buttercup is TREAD’s show bot, and was made to show people what the team can do. They work on making her look as good as she can, while doing as much as they can get her to do. Currently, Buttecup can shoot t-shirts out of her t-shirt cannon, which they sometimes use to shoot candy for kids to collect.
They have used assemblies as a way to tell people about TREAD since they started. They told the students what they do, and try to get people interested in TREAD. The team also drives buttercup around the gym during the parades.
The team also makes minibots, which they use while participating in activities in the community. They will let kids drive the minibots while they talk to them about what TREAD does.
The team does multiple events where they go out into the community and talks about STEM, and what TREAD does.
The team has participated in Kids Day at Les Gove park since the team was started. They show off their competition robot, and Buttercup. In the past they have had Buttercup shoot candy out of her t-shirt cannons. The team will also be a part of Kids Day this year as it takes place on the last day of school.
TREAD started teaching a scratch class 3 years ago. They have highly capable students come in for a class at the school. They teach them how to use scratch, and tell them about TREAD.
They have also done the homecoming parade since they started. The homecoming queen would ride on Buttercups back during the parade.
This year, there a tailgater game instead of the parade, and the team had a booth set up for that.
The team has also been in the Santa Parade since they started. They drive Buttercup, and their minibots around during the parade. They also talk to people and give buttons out during the parade. They want to tell the community about TREAD, and what they do as a team.
This year during the Santa Parade, Mr. Zawislak was approached by someone who wants TREAD to make a prosthetic leg for her dog. He said they would see what they can do. The team has already looked at the dog, and has the measurements that they need to make a leg; they have started researching prosthetics, and talking about how they are going to design the leg. The team has decided that this project is their number one priority, and they are focusing as much time as they can on finishing the leg.
Being a part of TREAD makes a big difference in both the mentors’, and the students’ lives. When asked how being the coach affected him Mr. Zawislak said, “It has allowed me to have closer relationships with some of the students and allowed me to see the students achieve more high caliber things that I couldn’t see in the classroom.” When asked how being a student in TREAD affected him, Acosta-Vega said, “It’s taught me professionalism. It taught me how to be gracious. It taught me to be a leader, but most of all it taught me how to teach others lessons that have been taught to me by our now graduated members.”