I’m a big fan of the sciences–whether they be applied, theoretical, or both. So theoretically, robotics would come naturally as an extracurricular pursuit. And it did. The chance to apply my studies in a situation where my creations could come to life right before my eyes would prove too enticing to pass up, and I found myself attending over six hours a week of builds, club meetings, and general administrative functions. For a short time, it looked like I would be extending my stay for the duration of my high school career. Until I didn’t.
My reasons for eventually leaving the team are varied and numerous. Some were personal; others, institutional. In order to expose the root of the problem, however, we must first take a look at the reasons that initially convinced me to join in the first place.
One the best things about joining extracurricular activities in general is the ability to meet and be surrounded by like-minded peers. This fact holds especially true for robotics, in which a shared interest in various aspects of engineering serves to bond and foster friendships. The people I got to know during my short time on the robotics team are still close friends today.
But it’s also so much more. Robotics is not just a band of scientific brothers attempting to maximize the number of points earned in a FRC competition–its a community where learning takes the highest priority. Experience isn’t necessary if one has the patience to develop his skill set. From writing grant applications to coding, metal-working to marketing, robotics allows an individual to grow in a broad spectrum of areas.
So why did I quit at the end of my sophomore year? On the surface, robotics looked too great an opportunity to pass up. For me, it was too good to be true.
Robotics requires a certain type of person, one who’s passionate about the work he or she is doing, one who must be able to, despite innumerable challenges, find the light at the end of the tunnel. The former requires a specific mindset; the latter requires copious amounts of time. For me, it just didn’t end up being worth it.
My biggest issue with the team concerned its modular organization. Coding remained separate from the electrical, which in turn was completely removed from the mechanical, providing students who know exactly what they want to do a solid medium to do so. But for people like me, whose real interests remain fuzzy even to this day, the decentralized nature is an easy way to get lost in the weeds without getting much done of anything.
The lack of passion coupled with the large time commitment would mean my weeks were spent far from enjoyably as I struggled to reconcile what I believed to be a directionless task with the amount of effort I invested. Taking on the role of a grant writer would prove to be the best way for me to contribute without feeling a sense of futility, but even the satisfaction from the propagation of the status quo would have to come to an end eventually–in this case, at the end of my sophomore year.
That isn’t to say my time in robotics was a waste. I learned a lot about my own interests and myself, and a love for writing has followed me ever since. And while it may not have been the best activity for me, the robotics team at my school has grown considerably in recent years, attracting freshmen and seniors alike. For those who have keen interests in engineering, robotics is one of the best ways to get involved. Even for those who don’t, it’s one of the best ways to discover if one does.