Frequently Asked Questions

 

WHEAT stands for Watchung Hills Education and Technology.  WHEAT is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Dedicated to supporting various WHRHS engineering and technology initiatives.  If you have a question that is not answered here, please email us your question at wheatfoundation@gmail.com .

What is the WHRHS Robotics Club?

The WHRHS a group of about 60 students, Freshman through Senior, who share a common enthusiasm for designing, building and testing robots. Each year the students participate in one or more competitions in which they have a limited period of time to build a robot.

What is the name of the team?

The WHRHS Robotics Team is called the RoboWarriors, Team 41.  The team numbers are assigned in order in which the teams were created, so the RoboWarriors were one of the first teams to join in 1997.  Current team numbers being assigned to new teams are in the thousands. You can check out the team's website here.

Who are the advisors that run the Robotics Club?

For the 2018/2019 season, the advisors/mentors are:

- Peter Ponzio – Advisor and Technology Education Teacher

- Michael Gangluff - Chemistry Teacher

- Chris Gibson – Technology Education Teacher

- Greg Krueger - Social Studies Teacher

- Jim Giacchi – Mechanical Engineer-Picatinny Arsenal, 1LT Armor U.S. Army

- Garrett Dicken – Electrical Engineer

- Ilija Hadzic - PhD, Electrical Engineer

What are some key terms I should know?

- FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is an international youth organization that operates the FIRST      Robotics Competition, FIRST LEGO League, Junior FIRST LEGO League, and FIRST Tech Challenge competitions. 

 

- FRC - FIRST Robotics Competition is an international high school robotics competition. Each year, teams of high school students and mentors work during a six week period to build game-playing robots that weigh up to 120 pounds (54 kg). Robots complete tasks such as scoring balls into goals, Frisbees into goals, inner tubes onto racks, hanging on bars, and balancing robots on balance beams. The game changes yearly, keeping the excitement fresh and giving each team a more level playing field. While teams are given a standard set of parts, they are also allowed encouraged to buy or make specialized parts. FRC is one of four robotics competition programs organized by FIRST.

 

-  STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM is a curriculum based on the idea of educating students in the four specific disciplines together in an interdisciplinary and applied approach rather than teach the four disciplines as separate/discrete subjects.

How often does the Robotics Club meet?

During non-peak season, which is from September through December, and April thru June, the Robotics Club meets weekly on Thursday afternoons.  During peak season, it is not uncommon for students to meet daily after school and on Saturdays.

How do parents receive communications?

The team advisor maintains a distribution list for the parents.   He relies on your kids to provide him your contact information, so if you are not receiving updates, please email the team advisor, Mr. Ponzio, at pponzio@whrhs.org and he can invite you to the Google Group.   

What are the key events and dates I should be aware of?

Please check out our Key Events page for details.

What is the goal of a robot build?

Every year in January, teams receive the new game instructions and rules via NASA satellite feed. Each team has only 46 days to brainstorm, design, build and test a robot.  Once the 46 days are over, the robot must be sealed in a bag and the team is not allowed to bring it out until the competitions in March.

Can parents attend the competitions or other events?

Yes!! Parents are welcome to attend the competitions and events.  If your Robotics student chooses to go to a competition, they are required to use the school provided transportation that leaves and returns to WHRHS, unless special arrangements are made in advance for late arrival or early departure.   However, as a parent, you are welcome to drive to a competition/event and attend on your own.   There is no charge and it is a great opportunity to see what it’s all about.  See more information on our Key Events page.

Can parents take their kids to and from the competitions?

Yes.  A release form must be filled out, signed by a parent and submitted to the team advisor for approval by school administration. The Early Pick Up and Late Arrival forms can be found at www.team41robotics.com. Just click on the tab "Permission Slips & Forms" and select "Early Pick Up" and/or "Late Arrival".  Forms must be handed in and approved no later than the day before the trip.

Is there a best time for parents to attend the competitions?

As a general rule, the best time to attend is Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.  The first part of the competition on Saturday morning consists of tune-up and practice, and Sunday afternoon is the “alliances” part of the competition where only the top teams continue to participate (kind of like the playoffs).  At these times, there is no guarantee that you will get to see the team robot in action.

Will the team help my child learn about engineering?

Absolutely!  Robotics team members will learn the mechanical and electrical engineering aspects of robotics, and will also be exposed to computer programming on microcontrollers.  More importantly, they will get hands-on exposure to these fields, solving real problems and building a real robot.  There is no blueprint to follow, and the team must create the robot from scratch each year.  Of all the classes and extra-curricular activities available at WHRHS, the robotics team is probably the most valuable practical engineering experience a student can get.

Are there other advantages of joining the team?

In addition to the technical knowledge the students gain, the robotics team will also teach them how to be creative and how to work together in a team environment.  When designing the robot, there is no “right”answer, and the team is only limited by their imagination (and the laws of physics, of course).  No one student can build these robots on their own, and the team members will need to work together, coordinate activity between various sub-teams, leverage the strengths of all members and exercise good time management to successfully complete these complex projects on time. 

Will this help my child get into a good engineering college?

Maybe.  A lot depends on what the student puts into the robotics team.  If they just go to the meetings and watch passively, they will learn very little about engineering and robotics team membership will just be am insignificant check box on their college application.  But if the student is excited and passionate about technology, the robotics team will give them the opportunity to explore that passion, to gain practical engineering experience, to demonstrate their abilities and interest and (most importantly) to have a lot of fun in the process.  These are the things that colleges are looking for in prospective students: engagement, enthusiasm, passion.  The bottom line is that students should not join the robotics team because they think it will look good on a college application.  They should join the robotics team because they love robotics and technology.

 

In recent years, robotics team members have gone on to attend great engineering schools in New Jersey (NJIT, Rowan, Rutgers), across the nation (Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Lehigh, MIT, University of Pittsburgh, Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and even internationally (McGill University, University of Waterloo).

Will this help my child get a college scholarship?

Again, maybe.  Just checking off “robotics team”on the application won't get anyone a scholarship.  But active team membership is an impressive achievement and will make the student a good candidate for many technology scholarships.  There are a number of scholarship programs specifically for participants in the FIRST robotics programs. Please see the following link for additional information on FIRST scholarship opportunities: http://www.usfirst.org/scholarshipsearch.aspx

Does my child need prior robotics or engineering knowledge?

Not at all.  Many new team members have little exposure to robotics before joining the team.  The team itself is responsible for training new members, so the older students will teach the new students about the various aspects of robotics (design, mechanical, electrical and programming).  It is important for new student to actively seek out training when they join the team.  If they go to the team meeting and just sit in the corner waiting for something to happen, they may or may not get any training.  Instead, the new student needs to be an active part of the team, be curious, ask questions and get involved.  The team members love to talk about technology, and there is no one on the team that won't take the time to answer a question.  So, new students are encouraged to actively seek out knowledge.

 

My Freshman has little to do during build season.  Why?

It can be difficult for new team members during their first build season.  The team has only six weeks to design and build their robot for the year's challenge: there are no extensions or late submissions allowed.  So, once build season starts, there is little time to train new team members or to hold their hands.  I know it sounds harsh, but it is the reality.  This is why it is so important for new team members to be active during the Fall, to learn as much as they can BEFORE build season starts.  If a student is inexperienced during build season, their options for participation will be limited.  The best advice for such a student is to stay the course, to continue to ask questions and look over the shoulders of others as the robot is designed and built.  Team members will help to teach them, but the team member cannot just sit around and expect other people to come over to train them.

 

Do the children really use the shop equipment and tools?

Yes, they do.  They need to make their own robot parts from metal stock and other raw ingredients.  Older team members will teach new team members how to use the various tools, and every student is required to undergo online training and pass a safety test for each tool before they are allowed to use the equipment.  Safety is very important to the team, and the team members know that the workshop equipment are not toys.  Nevertheless, it would be good advice for parents of new team members to discuss this topic with their child to make sure they understand their responsibility in keeping all members of the team safe. 

 

Why do we need to provide food during the build season?

The team works long hours during the build season, and providing food accomplishes two things.  First, it insures that the team members are eating correctly during build season and not skipping meals. Secondly, by providing food at the school, the team members are able to put in longer hours working on the robot without having to worry about missing their meals at home or having to leave early to get home for dinner.

 

My child spends a lot of time at robotics.  Is this normal?

It is certainly not abnormal.  Many team members work long hours during build season (25 – 30 hours per week is not unusual).  Team members are not required to work that many hours, and each student must decide for themselves how much time they can and will spend working on the robot.  Some team members attend only a few days each week, and still provide valuable service to the team.  It is important for parents of new team members to monitor the student's activity to insure that they are not over-extending themselves and negatively impacting their grades and coursework.  Many team members are so passionate about robotics that they will take short-cuts in other areas of their lives to spend more time with the team.  Enthusiasm is great, but the primary purpose of high school is education, and it is important that the student not let team membership negatively impact school (or any other aspects of their lives).

 

Can you suggest any outside programs on robotics that team members may enjoy?

We sure can.  Please see this page for some suggestions.

 

Have more questions?

We are happy to help answer any question you may have.  Simply send us an email at wheatfoundation@gmail.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can!