Westminster Robotics Finds Success Amidst COVID-19


6199E shown in the order of: Luci Shi, Celeste Roselli, John Overend, Liam Loughead, Zainab Barodawala, and Augie Bunting.

Pace Pequignot

At Westminster, students have the option to sign up every year to participate in robotics, creating teams and engineering robots to complete challenges. Westminster participates in Vex Robotics competitions, bringing students from different schools together to compete. However, with COVID-19 at hand, Westminster was hesitant about the idea of cross-school competitions. “We took the fall to kind of figure out is there going to be a Vex Season,” said Timothy Shabanowitz, the leader of Robotics at Westminster.

 Vex certainly had to find a way for everyone to compete safely, and one way they accomplished this goal was through live videos and recordings. “There’s a live video camera on Zoom, and we are doing the robotics competition and scoring balls in the towers, with judges watching and scoring the game remotely,” said John Overend, an 8th grader on the Robotics team.

Pre-recorded videos are just one aspect of robotics that Covid has changed this year. Robotics used other resources, and in this case, a program, to increase their ability to teach. “We utilized this time while we were waiting to see if there was a Vex Season for students to learn Onshape, a 3D modeling program that allows multiple students to build a virtual robot to specs but at a distance,” says Shabanowitz. Onshape is the Photoshop of robotics, encouraging ingenuity and design. Onshape opened a window into sharing ideas and communicating while staying safe.“Now that we have embedded that, it is now a standard for Middle School Robotics and Upper School Robotics.”

Even with the many challenges this year, robotics has been nothing but successful in their competitions, both teams qualifying for Vex Worlds this year. For many members, this will be their first time competing in a large-scale tournament. “It’s a new experience for me; it will be interesting to get the tournament experience,” says John Overend. 

Robotics persevered through the many challenges they faced this year, finding new, innovative ways to teach the team in a time period where we have a virus that previous generations never had to manage. “We basically had to revamp how we taught robotics to students this year. So from the coaches, and the way to the students, it was a learning experience for everybody,” says Shabanowitz. This year, the team not only was finding ways to launch balls into goals; they had to find ways to work together while staying safe.

Special thanks to this year’s Robotics teams: 6199E, including Augie Bunting, John Overend, Liam Loughead, Zainab Barodawala, Celeste Roselli, and Lucy Shi; and 6199A, including Hunter Boze, Aydin Damji, Andy Fang, Anderson Lee, Max Rodbell, and Brayden Watt.