"LightSaders" Robotics Team is Geared Up to Win (By Gil Garcia & Mike Scallon, Robotics Instructors)

The “LightSaders” robotics team, undaunted by the upsets and trials since the start of school, is geared up to compete in this year’s First Tech Challenge, “Ultimate Goal.” LightSaders is a St. Michael’s school-sponsored team for the serious robotics enthusiast, according to Gil Garcia, Computer Science & Robotics Instructor.
 
“All team members share a sincere and passionate interest in competitive robotics. It's not an intro course, so it really is more for that student who has a genuine interest in the complete competitive robotics experience (engineering, programming, planning, etc.),” Garcia said. Mike Scallon, Robotics Instructor & Coach, said that the team is excited to address this year's game challenge — watch here to see what the team is up against this time.
 
Every LightSaders member brings something to the effort from science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) as they collaborate, problem solve and apply critical thinking to the tasks in front of them. An inside look at their activity is included here. The team must build a robot that meets and preferably exceeds this year's game challenge, while raising funds from local businesses and conducting outreach to gain exposure within the greater Austin community. This year’s team includes members from every grade level:
  1. Ethan Avuncan ’23: Engineering
  2. Neil Flores ’22: Grants, Marketing and Fundraising
  3. Tannah Jandrell ’21: Marketing, Fundraising and Outreach
  4. Claire Lawler ’24: Programming
  5. Grant Lawler ‘21: Programming
  6. Cy Mende ’24: Game Strategy and Fundraising
  7. Davin Mortellaro ‘24: Programming
  8. Rylan Peterson ’22: Engineering
  9. Will Sloan ‘24: Engineering
Neil Flores is in his third year of the program and said he thinks plans are going well. “I think that it is interesting to see how, while distance learning, we as a team, have been able to build a robot and work together.” His job has been to work on data gathering/analyzing, sending out sponsorship letters, finding and filling out grants/discounts for the team, and working on the LightSaders website
 
“This is my first year in marketing, but I am definitely considering doing a minor at college in one of the fields of marketing,” Flores said.
 
The biggest challenge for him is finding the time to do it all.
 
“There is so much to design, discuss, and build when creating a robot for a competition that there is simply not enough time to do it all in school. This means that we have to continue working even after school, which is a bit difficult this year, but we have adapted,” Flores said.
 
Freshman Claire Lawler comes from a long line of robotics technicians at St. Michael’s. Her brother Joseph ’19 was in the program, and Grant Lawler ’21 is also a team member. She and Grant are programmers.
 
“As one of the programmers for the team, I create test programs for the build and design teams so they can test their designs. I also create programs to complete different challenges with the robot. I originally did not know how to program, but with my brother's help, I have started to create game-ready programs” she said.

Claire said she is interested in pursuing robotics further. “I am considering programming or engineering as a possible career path, but I still need to discover more of my interests.”

Engineer Will Sloan, a freshman, started out the year having had lots of experience through St. Gabriel’s robotics program where he had been in the build and design part of the team and the robot driver for two years. “It's going great. I am familiar with a lot of the upperclassmen on the team, so we are already able to work together very well,” he said.
With his long-running interest in robotics, he has seen many changes. “Every year they come out with new parts that you can use, so that is an element of constant change. Then the game also changes a lot and there are always new general rules that we need to follow,” Sloan said.
As a team engineer, he is responsible for design and prototyping work. Staying organized, he said, is critical.
“One of the biggest challenges is getting all your materials organized and keeping them that way the whole season. There are times that we need to travel to different places where obviously making sure we have everything we need is important.”
Sloan said he is “absolutely” thinking of studying mechanical engineering in college.
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