One of the top teams at De La Salle Institute doesn’t compete on the hockey rink, the softball diamond or the wrestling mat.
Instead, the De La Salle Meteors’ Robotics Team participates in the South Chicago League against 12 other high schools in a battle to see who can create the best and most versatile robot.
In De La Salle’s first competition this season, the veteran team placed second while the freshman team was 11th in the 13-team competition at Dyett High School.
During the course of each league event, each school competes in five or six matches. With every win, they receive points that determine their final rankings for the day.
In the first competition at Dyett, both Meteor teams passed inspections without fail.
“Our team was one of the few teams to have an autonomous mode (meaning the team pre-programmed its robot to do things automatically), which scored us more points,” De La Salle coach and faculty member Ian McNair said. “Our Meteors supported each other well and were gracious professionals in their competition.”
De La Salle’s Robotics Club, which meets four days a week after school for 75 minutes each day, consists of 20 members with students from both the Lourdes Hall Campus for Young Women and the Institute Campus for Young Men.
The primary purpose of the Robotics Club, which is in its second year, is to create a robot from scratch and program it to do things based upon the competition for that specific year.
While creating the robot, the students learn to work as a team, manage a project and gain valuable knowledge about the engineering design process.
“Students are benefiting from the robotics program in many different ways,” De La Salle coach and faculty member Ron Cunat said. “Every participant takes something away that is unique to their skillset and individual interests.
“For example, students who are good with programming have the opportunity to enhance these skills while others who are good with their hands have the opportunity to construct and design.
“Overall, I believe our robotics program has inspired students to pursue careers in engineering, technology, computer science and programming by offering a place for them to explore their interests and discover science in a new way.”
Another benefit of the Robotics Club is that it enables students from De La Salle’s Lourdes Hall Campus for Young Women to work and excel in a thriving academic environment with their male counterparts from De La Salle’s Institute Campus.
Beginning in the fall of 2017, De La Salle will become a coeducational high school with all students taking classes at the Institute Campus at 35th and Michigan.
“Speaking for some of the girls, I know a few of them had no prior engineering experience whatsoever,” De La Salle faculty member and coach Amanda Bixman said. “But they wanted to learn something new and help out in any way they could.
“This is a chance for all types of students to belong to a team – whether they are team veterans, aspiring engineers or those with no experience or incoming knowledge of robotics.
“Even though there are team leaders for the various divisions in our club, everyone is contributing and playing a significant role in the success of our team. Even the quieter students are taking on leadership roles. It is a very diverse group of students and ability levels.”