Graduating gears

Seniors compete in their final robotics competition
Seniors Andrew Son (left), Tommy Eschbach (center) and Kaiden Kelley (right) laugh together while waiting for their robot, OverDriv6, to compete at the 2024 Missouri VEX State Championship. Although the competition was stiff, the trio managed to have a good time, content with their performance and teamwork. “We’re very good at recognizing small victories while in the face of adversity. If one of our subsystems failed or one of the parts of our robot broke, wed spend half an hour or so fixing that. The next match, even if we lost, wed still celebrate the fact that that adjustment we made ended up working and succeeding. Being able to celebrate minor victories was very good for our team chemistry and strength,” said Eschbach. (Photo by Mikalah Owens)
Seniors Andrew Son (left), Tommy Eschbach (center) and Kaiden Kelley (right) laugh together while waiting for their robot, OverDriv6, to compete at the 2024 Missouri VEX State Championship. Although the competition was stiff, the trio managed to have a good time, content with their performance and teamwork. “We’re very good at recognizing small victories while in the face of adversity. If one of our subsystems failed or one of the parts of our robot broke, we’d spend half an hour or so fixing that. The next match, even if we lost, we’d still celebrate the fact that that adjustment we made ended up working and succeeding. Being able to celebrate minor victories was very good for our team chemistry and strength,” said Eschbach. (Photo by Mikalah Owens)
Mikalah Owens

All four robotics teams competed at the 2024 Missouri VEX State Championship in Park Hills, Mo. While each individual team did well in competition — robotics team Blue Brains even earned a spot at the Worlds championship —  team OverDriv6 succeeded in a completely separate trait from any of the other competition: persistent teamwork. 

OverDriv6 thrived off of the energy and friendship between seniors Tommy Eschbach, Andrew Son and Kaiden Kelley. For Eschbach and Son, the connection was instantaneous, forming a close friendship during their freshman year on the robotics team.

“I’ve known [Son] since sixth grade. I continued to have classes with him, and he just kept on showing up,” Eschbach said. “Once I joined the robotics team, we really clicked and got closer. Despite being the [senior class] president, [Son] is easy to talk to and fun [to] joke around with.” 

Throughout the past year, Eschbach and Son co-lead OverDriv6, helping to prepare for competition. While Son worked on coding the robot’s autonomous paths, Eschbach focused on being the driver and mechanic. During this process, the duo’s close friendship developed to include Kelley, a connection that sprouted from being on the same robotics team this year.

Seniors Andrew Son (left), Kaiden Kelley (second from right) and Tommy Eschbach (right) admire senior Insong Lee (second from left) as he plays their team instrument. Over the years, a common tradition among teams has been to make their own personal trophies; Eschbach created OverDriv6’s medal, a mini guitar, using rubber bands, screws and a piece of metal. “I got bored and decided [now] was the best time for me to start up my music career and make a guitar. I brought the guitar to the next team meeting and, as a team, we collectively agreed that it was essential that it come with us to state. Throughout the entire day [at State], at any given moment, someone was shredding on the guitar,” Eschbach said. (Mikalah Owens)
“I never talked to [Kelley] much before this year, but we started working on the robot together and got close. [He] was a little quiet at first, but he started to open up and became one of the funniest people I know. We all ended up thriving off of each other,” Eschbach said.

Kelley helped with the mechanics alongside Eschbach while also utilizing his shared knowledge of engineering with Son, ultimately bringing the trio closer together.

“We all got along well and had similar interests, so that helped [the team] a lot,” Kelley said. 

Despite Kelley’s subdued character in comparison to Eschbach and Son, the group’s expertise in balancing their specialties and amiable personalities helped to keep the team running smoothly. 

“We work well together because we are very open to each other and [how our] qualities and skills complement each other,” Son said. “[Eschbach] is great at being able to throw in jokes during difficult or awkward moments that we have as a team. No matter what you give, [Kelley] will always come back with not just a solution but a working solution.”

 

Seniors Tommy Eschbach (left), Kaiden Kelley (center) and Andrew Son (right) celebrating the success of the mechanics of their robot at the 2024 Missouri VEX State Championship. Regardless of the pressure of competing at state, the trio continued to prioritize teamwork in order to avoid making any outcome feel personal. “Despite the outcome of any of the matches or the tournaments we’re in, we always keep our moods high and joke around with each other [to] make light of a bad situation,” Eschbach said. (Photo by Mikalah Owens)
But the collaboration of Overdriv6 was not only limited to the members, extending to assistant coach and business teacher Paul Schwent, who surveyed the laborious process in preparing for the competition. In doing so, Schwent witnessed the strong bond of friendship that united the team, highlighting it as a remarkable characteristic of the group’s dynamic.

As a teacher, seeing the smiles and the joking around between the students is the ultimate payoff. Of course, we also want to see the teams perform well… but good sportsmanship and friendships will always trump trophies.

— Paul Schwent

“The most rewarding part of coaching robotics this year has been observing the camaraderie between the teams. As a teacher, seeing the smiles and the joking around between the students is the ultimate payoff. Of course, we also want to see the teams perform well because they want to perform well, but good sportsmanship and friendships will always trump trophies,” Schwent said.

In the end, the finale for the senior season of Overdriv6 was a bittersweet one. Even though the results at state didn’t end with a ticket to World’s, Overdriv6 earned the superior prize: companionship. 

“I am honored to finish the season with [Kelley], [Escbach] and the whole team,” Son said. “It is hard to find a team [that is] fully committed and beyond the relations of just being team members. Working with them has been a pleasure.”

 

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About the Contributor
Mikalah Owens, Staff Writer
Pronouns: she/her Grade: 12 Years on staff: 2 What is your favorite piece of literature? “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” by Peter Hedges. Who is your hero? That’s tough. I wanna say Henry Rollins since he’s gone through so much trauma and has overcome that and grown as a person; that’s really inspiring. Realistically, probably my Uncle. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? I don’t know… probably fries or something.
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  • E

    Emily EarlyApr 1, 2024 at 9:54 am

    soooo good mikalah!

    Reply
  • L

    lauren holcombMar 28, 2024 at 1:25 pm

    i should’ve joined robotics i didn’t know there were fellow lin manuel miranda and seinfeld aficionados

    Reply