Robots and Buzzsaws and Contests, oh my!

All about the Conifer Robotics club and their competition in March


Corey Neumeier

Rhys Hanson demonstrates a selfmade RC car during Trick-or-Treat street. Hanson has many roles on the team, not the least of which are the drive coach, which means that Hanson is very skilled at driving the robots the team creates. Hanson’s other jobs also include general management, electrical lead, Co-team lead, mechanical worker, and designer. “I wear many hats in robotics,” Hanson said.

The whirring of machinery can be heard throughout the lower floors of the building on Tuesday evenings. The clicks and buzzing of saws is present also as students create their own robots through engineering and careful planning; buying what they need and grabbing snacks from their in-classroom food bar. This is the Conifer robotics team, known officially as Team Blitz 2083, and they are working passionately on each of their respective jobs and projects fora higher chance of success in their upcoming robotics competition.

“This year our team has invested in a new technology; a swerve drive, which is basically a more advanced drive train for a robot that allows us to drive in any direction,” Senior Rhys Hanson said.

The robotics team means it when they say invest, as they spend the club’s budget of $15,000 on the materials they need and the parts that need to be replaced. The purchases need to be put through Rhys Hanson, who then hands it to Mr. Halingstad, who then makes the purchase. The budget for the robotics team is not as much as it seems, as the upcoming F.I.R.S.T robotics competition requires a buy-in of up to $6,000 depending on the event. Even with this strict budget and the often expensive prices, Team Blitz is prepared for the competition and the prompt that will come with it.

The parts of the robotics club are varied, including departments for subjects that aren’t focused on making, testing, or driving robots. These include a marketing department, which is focused on spreading messages about the club to other robotics groups and working to pull sponsors for the club. The main driving force of this club, and the departments within it, are the students, who are supervised by mentors; adult volunteers whose main job is to provide assistance when asked and stand aside when they are not needed.. 

“We’re here just as advisors who have experience in engineering, mechanics, electricity, computer programming,” Volunteer Rob Christie said. “It’s more of a student led organization.”

The main captain behind the club, as well as its credit card, is Eric Halingstad. He is very experienced in engineering and robotics and has spent seven years with the club. He originally got into the club because of a requirement that mandated him to teach an engineering class. Since his beginnings of running the group his largest duties are offering advice to students and making purchases. Halingstad believes that the club has a very wide variety of opportunities for students to enjoy with its myriad of departments and jobs.

“If you talk about any kind of engineering,” Halingstad said. “We are doing it here.”

Mr. Halingstad is the head of the robotics team, but this role is described as more of a figurehead than anything else. The role he takes is more of a credit card bearer that watches the class go about its work. “The majority of the operations of the club are done by the students and by our mentors,” Halingstad said.

The team is ready for the competition, and is practicing with making other robots in the meantime. Until the team gets its prompt on what they need to make for the competition, they will work tirelessly to hone their skills and forge quality relationships.

“The robotics students are some of my best friends and I hang out with them in school and outside of school,” Hanson said. “They’re basically my second family at this point.”