Robotics Club tries to overcome challenges


Northeast Ohio STEM Ecosystem

At a Score event last year, Mayfield’s Clawtech and Kirtland High School’s robotics team attend a STEM outreach event sponsored by the Cleveland Cavaliers and NeoSTEM to provoke science appreciation in the community.

Amrithaa Ashok Kumar, Guest Writer

Clawtech, the robotics team at Mayfield High School, is trying to overcome equipment shortages, financial hardships, and the unavailability of a second club adviser.

Jillian Gambino, senior captain of the team, thinks it is unfortunate for the team. She said, “I prioritized Clawtech over other activities such as Science Olympiad and Golf, [so] it’s had the highest personal value to me. It is sad to see Clawtech hindered by these hardships now.”

From arriving before sunrise at 5:30 to leaving after sunset at 10:00, the team has consistently been dedicated. Clawtech members believe that the club was about embracing failures, forming team spirit, meeting like-minded people from various backgrounds, and appreciating the journey more than destination.

However, with teachers having many commitments, and the number of clubs steadily increasing, newer clubs are in search of teachers willing to be advisors, and so is Clawtech.

Gambino thinks the team has done everything in their control to find a second adviser. She said, “At first, we reached out to teachers via email. Then, I reached out to Mr. Legan who took over the issue to find teachers for the team. However, he said it is not going well – that makes perfect sense since teachers will have other commitments.”

Moreover, robotics teams across Ohio have lately been facing equipment shortages due to an issue in control hub production. The control hubs act like a brain, serving to communicate the coded program to robots.

Gail Ball, adviser of the club, thinks this is not a major impediment to the team’s success but rather an hindrance that needs to be resolved in the long run. She said, “The control hubs are not available due to a supply chain issue–it has been affecting many products that contain special semiconductor components. The local FIRST organization (which hosts FIRST Tech Challenge) has been asking high school teams to donate spare parts to help out rookie teams.”

The team is planning to reach out to students from other FTC robot teams who may have a spare control hub. Gambino said, “Production is scarce and it is out of our control, but we hope to collaborate with other teams to temporarily accommodate.”

On top of these hardships, the robotics team is surviving on no money – hindering them from buying vital equipment (such as omni-directional wheels) to make a prototype robot this year. Although the team hopes to raise funds, they noted that fundraising in the community is less effective unlike a few years ago when cash exchange was allowed.

The team is striving to keep the spirit up as they try to address the problems presented. They believe that a robotics team with sincere visions on engineering is crucial for the Mayfield community as it helps spread awareness among youths on the significance of technology for futuristic advancement.

Clawtech came along in 2019 when a group of freshmen and juniors were united by their shared passion for engineering, computers, and basically anything ‘techie.’

Ever since, the club has been participating in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) where teams design, build, and code robots to compete against other teams. When Clawtech is not working on the robots, members try to actively engage in outreach programs like mentoring the middle school Lego Robotics team and volunteering at events hosted by Rocket Mortgage.

Registration for the ultimate FIRST tech challenge requires two advisors, with at least one from the school faculty. As of now, Ball, Senior Project Engineer from Rockwell Automations, is the only coach for the team. Without a coach from the school faculty, the team will be considered unofficial.

Ball sees potential in Clawtech. She said, “The team did a good job–and I was looking forward to coaching them this year. In addition to participating in the event and the building sessions, they also partook in a STEM outreach event at the Progressive FieldHouse.”

Gambino has a similar view on the potential of the robotics team. She said, “We made it to the semifinals in invitationals last year, so I truly believe that a combination of adequate equipment, funds, and a second advisor along with hard work and dedication like last year would help the team reach greater heights.”