Caravan Robotics Suffers for Success


Mr. Collier and the robotics team pose with their robot while at Marian Catholic High School for a competition on January 15th, 2022. (Photo Courtesy of Dan Walsh)

Not many Mt. Carmel students would skip their lunch periods, often the best chance to socialize throughout the day. 

But the Caravan Robotics team is different. Seniors Dan Walsh and Ahmad Raoul do not go to lunch, opting instead to head to the Graham Center and spend 5th Period every day working on a scientific masterpiece. 

The duo, along with a handful of other students, works all year on a robot, designed specifically for competing against the machines created by other high schools. Competing only a few times per year, they spend possibly the most time preparing out of any competitive team at Mt. Carmel. 

The way that the robotics team competes is unique since the robots do not directly compete with each other. Instead, they each are designed for executing a specific series of tasks in order and judged on how well and how quickly they complete those given tasks. 

If a robot fails to complete just one task, it can be disastrous for the score of a team’s performance. If one team fails to complete a task, they must hope that all of their opponents also fail to complete at least one task. The point deduction for failing one task is catastrophic, so any malfunctioning robot all but dooms their team from advancing. As a result, rigorous testing and meticulous planning are required to succeed. 

“It’s a lot of work, but we have fun doing it and it really pays off,” said Raoul. He and Walsh both work together to help assemble their robot from different pieces, using metal, wiring, and motors along with simple processors to create a robot capable of carrying out different required tasks.

While the preparation aspect might be the most important, the competition part of the robotics team is the most exciting. That is when all of the hard work put in throughout the year pays off. After a few preliminary competitions in early winter, the team heads to the state championships, where they can qualify for nationals in Houston, Texas. The Illinois Vex Robotics Competition state Championships take place February 25th and 26th, 2022 at Rich Township High School. The Illinois Championships have been granted 12 berths to the world championships, so the Caravan will be looking to place in the top 12 to advance to Houston.

“It would be really fun to go to Houston,” said Walsh. “If we can go there that would be amazing.” 

Since this is Raoul and Walsh’s fourth time building a robot for the Caravan, this could be the first year the robotics team qualifies for nationals. One may think there is added pressure since it is their last year, right?

“We don’t really feel any pressure or anything like that,” said Walsh. He said that he and Raoul are only doing robotics for fun and do not take it too seriously. “Obviously it would be nice to win, but if we don’t make it to nationals it’s not the end of the world.”

Mr. Caribee Collier, the robotics team moderator, is proud of the team’s commitment. “We only have a few students,” he said, “but they have spent a lot of their free time preparing the robot. They’ve built one of the better robots I’ve seen this year.”

Hopefully, all of the lunches spent in room G203 will pay off, and the Caravan Robotics team will have success in the state and possibly world championships. However, Mr. Collier believes the team has already achieved success. “The knowledge and friendships the Robotics team has attained is worth more than whatever place they finish at state.”