By Jacob Munoz ‘17
To students crossing the Brother Rice pool corridor during late fall and winter, do not worry: an unidentified object is not searching the water for dangerous substances. Rather, it’s the Robotics Club, led by Mr. Mostyn and Mr. Gamboa, testing out their newest robot. Their creation will be put to the test in the Shedd Aquarium’s annual Midwest Regional Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) ROV Competition.
The 2015-16 school year will be the second year for the Robotics Club. The group was started at Brother Rice by science teacher Mr. Dan Mostyn, who was previously involved in Westinghouse College Prep’s Robotics Club for two years. The club was assisted by the Shedd Aquarium using a grant for equipment and the aquarium’s education staff, who also trained the club’s moderators. When Mostyn was looking for a job closer to home, he applied to Rice and expressed a desire for a Robotics Club, which he received along with sending another grant to the Shedd – this time in Rice’s name.
One of the newborn club’s first challenges in 2014-15 wasn’t that it didn’t have a big enough attendance on its opening day. Rather, eighty students showed up! It went far beyond Mr. Mostyn’s expectations, to the point where it became difficult to assign students tasks, even as a drop to around forty to fifty Crusaders occurred by the second meeting.
“As a moderator,” stated Mostyn, “I don’t want anyone to think that they aren’t a part of the process, so organizing everybody so they felt like they were contributing to the team was a real challenge.” The handling of the group’s responsibilities (which leveled off around fifteen to ten students) became easier, “as people started to figure out whether they wanted to do it or not or wanted to commit to coming.”
The club, which will meet four times a week this year and now includes assistant moderator and fellow science teacher Mr. Gamboa, has a plan of procedure. In addition to meetings that will assign tasks for members, Mostyn adds, “We have to go through a process of design. We really don’t just take [last year’s robot] apart right away and start drilling and gluing and everything. We have to think about the tasks that need to be done before we start designing. Early on, I’m hoping we make some decisions on what the robot will look like and what kind of features it’ll have before we start really getting our hands dirty.” Mostyn also said he plans to practice frequently in the pool, where the robot is to interact with replication of props in preparation for the competition. A required presentation and poster will also be needed for the contest.
Additionally, the club has a goal of preparing for underwater testing of the robot by Christmas, in order to spend the months after practicing and fixing their creation. Another achievement that Mostyn said he is striving for is the international competition, but he says he’ll still be glad if they try their hardest and don’t make it.
This year, Mostyn isn’t just hoping to have more students in the Robotics Club, but to inspire their aspirations in the long run. “Maybe [there’ll be a couple new students] that come to the club and start to like it and think about maybe doing some sort of science or technology or engineering in the future. That’s kinda what the main goal for me is; I want to get people excited about science and engineering.”
For those students, Mostyn isn’t only eyeing the science-savvy and mathematicians of the school. “I don’t just want people who like math and science. If we make it to international competition, we have to write a technical report, so I have to have guys who can write. We need guys who are involved with the design but also can speak well, because we have a presentation. We need to have guys who are able make a poster, who are good with visual design and art, so that way we have a good looking poster for our competition as well. I need guys who can market the club a little bit and maybe design a t-shirt. I need a whole bunch of different guys. It’s kind of like a company or a business…I need a wide range of people for this to be really successful.”