Beyond the bots

5430 Robotics takes home trophies through dedication, compatibility and friendship


Esta Kamau

After being qualified for the VEX robotics world championship, members of the 5430 robotics team remain humble because of their drive to collaborate and express their ideas with each other. For sophomore and Blue Brains member Esther Young (center), being the newest addition of her team has allowed her to meet people that she shares interests with. It has also allowed her to meet some of the nicest people she has ever met. “Being on the team is very energizing. I know for a fact my team definitely wants to take home trophies, but we also wanted to be qualified for world. That basically just means performing super well — maybe an award, but the experience is good too,” Young said.

Gearing up all four robots in preparation for the big day, members of the robotics program boarded a 5 a.m. bus March 5 and set off for Jefferson City, Mo. Each team — the Blue Brains (5430A), END GAM3 (5430B), Memory Leak (5430C) and 7 Orange Beetles (5430D) — prepared to compete in the VEX Robotics State Championship. 

After arriving at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., the teams unloaded the bus and socialized with teammates while preparing their robots for the competition.

“[The night before the competition] was really fun. We were all stressed, but we were all trying to make jokes to keep ourselves not as stressed. We got goofy, but we were also productive, which was cool because usually we’re either goofy or productive, but [that] night was kind of in the middle. It was a fun environment,” senior and Blue Brains member Anushka Dharmasanam said.

During the competition, the teams competed to score points in the 2022-2023 game VEX chose, “Spin Up.” All four teams reached the semifinals, and Blue Brains made the final rounds. During the final rounds, teams of two made alliances to battle against two opponents. After the matches, Blue Brains and their partner won the competition.

“One thing [that is] super cool about our team is [that] we’ve achieved a super high level of play. Two years ago, we won the excellence award at the World Championship. I wasn’t on the team for that, but I’m super impressed with them,” senior Katherine Hanses said. “[Blue Brains] has qualified for [the World Championship] every year. [For] the current seniors, in their freshman year, it was canceled. The year after that, it was online because of COVID-19, but we got to go to Dallas last year, which was super cool.”

Throughout the year, all teams have competed in four competitions, including Potosi, UCC, Troy and Ladue, except a few teams that attended five events. Each team has been rewarded for their hard work and dedication from the past to the most recent years.

“The learning curve is pretty steep, but it’s a positive experience just because of the community. What’s cool about robotics is that there are so many different skill sets involved, and people on our teams excel in different areas but still work collaboratively toward great performance. You also tend to see this in the wider club, where teams share tips or compare ideas,” sophomore and new team member Esther Young said. “As a first-year robotics team member, I would say that the people in this club are some of the smartest, nicest people I’ve met. We recognize each other’s strengths, and that by itself generates a lot of feelings of acceptance and motivation.”

I would say that the people in this club are some of the smartest, nicest people I’ve met. We recognize each other’s strengths, and that by itself generates a lot of feelings of acceptance and motivation.

— Esther Young

Each team comprises coders, drivers, note-takers and builders with four to seven team members. Senior and Blue Brains robot driver Joseph Britt has been on the team for all four high school years.

“A lot of people think there’s a high bar, and you have to be experienced to know what you’re doing. Most of us who came in had no clue what was going on at the beginning; everyone just taught you. It’s a cooperative community: it’s all about going in, figuring out what you want to do, and just learning along the way,” Britt said.

This community extends beyond high school. Alumni and former team members Andreas Frederick, Rick Biswas, David Meisinger and Levi Ladd attended the state competition supporting the robotics team. Each returning senior is now in college studying in fields related to the robotics activities they participated in during high school.

“[Being on the robotics team] was a pretty useful experience [now and] in the future, too because I was able to apply those concepts [to my] mechanical engineering studies. Overall, it was a pretty nice [experience],” Biswas said.

Ladd, who studies computer science at Case Western Reserve University, first joined the robotics team his freshman year of high school. 

“I joined the robotics team because I wanted a chance to build something with my hands. I wanted to be able to create a robot because I was always into Legos. Robotics just seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it,” Ladd said. “I found such a great group of people here, and they’ve made an incredible team.”

The robotics program’s teamwork throughout the years has allowed them to receive various awards while bonding with one another. Senior and team Memory Leak coder Ethan DeLuca values teamwork in the robotics team over everything else.

“Most people think of robotics as something that is almost all STEM, but I see it as something that is more communication and teamwork than anything else,” DeLuca said. “I’ve definitely learned some stuff about programming, definitely a lot of stuff about building, but I’ve learned more about how to communicate, work with a team, make decisions when people aren’t agreeing and explain ideas that are complicated when people aren’t understanding. That’s the most valuable thing I’ve taken away from robotics.”