Westside Boiler Invasion Builds Up to Competition Season

LEARNING LANGUAGES – Luke Silver, 10, practices coding during a WBI meeting. Members of the programming subteam learned many different programming languages. “I got interested in the fourth grade because I was really into coding,” said Siya Goel ,9.

It’s lunchtime. You’re strolling through the halls when suddenly you stumble upon a robot in the commons. Who brought this metal machine into the school? The Westside Boiler Invasion robotics team, of course! WBI is a club that builds robots, competes with them, and all the while completes website coding and organizes outreach events.

WBI primarily participates in the FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] robotics competition. FIRST is a nationwide organization aimed at helping students discover the lives of engineers and researchers through regional robot building and performance events. However, FIRST is not the only contest WBI takes part in. “The next thing we’re participating in is the Boilermaker Bot Battle, which is an off-season event at Purdue,” said President Henry Roberts, 12.

While WBI is competitive, it’s still very good for beginners and anyone interested the program. They make sure to include and prepare members of all ages.

“We’re doing a sort of buddy system where new members are partnered with returning members so that they feel more comfortable,” Vice President Becca Wilcox, 12, said. Additionally,Roberts said, “in previous years, we’ve had seventh graders do FLL [FIRST Lego League] which is Lego robotics, but this year they’re doing FTC [FIRST Tech Challenge], which is a cubic foot robot, but made out of actual metal.”

Ruth Sugiarto, 9, said, “Last year I did FLL because my friends got me interested in robotics and then I decided to do [WBI] after seeing them because a lot of people said it was fun.”

Aside from building and competing with robots, WBI makes sure to be conscious of their community and environment through outreach.

“FIRST itself as an organization really encourages outreach, so there’s awards entirely based around outreach,” said Roberts. “Our outreach started 20 years ago when we were founded and began partnering with the local library and doing robot demonstrations,” said Wilcox. She told us that they’ve branched out into making informative videos and raising  environmental awareness. Wilcox said, “Now we’re focusing a lot more on STEM education by running summer camps. This year we did a YMCA camp at Purdue and multiple little one-day events.”

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