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  • Chamber and Symphonic Orchestra Concert on May 8th at 7:00pm in the Coronado Auditorium
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  • Because of AP Testing, the Library will be closed intermittently until May 24th.
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Robotic Cougars on the Prowl

A Look at Coronado’s Robotics Team, Cougars Gone Wired
Cougars Gone Wired’s robot on the field during a Scrimmage match on February 24, 2024.

Out of all of the clubs at Coronado, the Robotics Team is one of the most interesting ones out there. Every student had probably heard something about the Robotics Team, but only a few truly know what’s going on within the doors of Room 407. The Robotics Team, called “Cougars Gone Wired,” from here on referred to as CGW, is, according to Coronado Engineering teacher and Head Coach of CGW, Mr. McLean, “an extracurricular activity for students that are interested in STEM-type areas.” And the team is not just simply all about robots as Mr. McLean continued that “because running this team is a lot like running a small company, we get people who are also interested in the business side of things.”

When it comes to CGW as a team, Mr. McLean says, “We talk about being student-led, and what that means is, they have the majority of the decision-making power.” Not all FIRST teams do this, but CGW makes sure to have the students managing practically every part of the team. CGW CEO Julia Tate, Class of 2025, referred to their team being structured and “organized like a business, we have a CEO, 11 VPs, and VPs are student leaders of subteams, and we have business subteams and technical subteam, technical subteams being the one that work on the robot and the field, and business subteams being the ones that organize our fundraisers, talk to our sponsors, run our YouTube channel, and things like that.” Every student can have a part in the team, and that even means that you do not need to be interested in robots to join, for the business team also is a major part of the team that sustains them. Mr. Mclean supports the students all the way in this structure, stating, “I created this team as an extracurricular activity for the students of my engineering class, so it is very important to me that the students are the ones doing the designing and fabricating and everything as much as possible.”

Mr. McLean talks to the parents of Robotics members about Competition Season.

When speaking to Mr. McLean, he was able to give some insights into how CGW got started. “Cougars Gone Wired is a FIRST Robotics Team that I started way back in 2008. I had seen a little documentary on it and stuff. And it had interested me, so I had actually brought the documentary and showed it to my engineering classes and said, ‘Who wants to do this?’ and I had about 15-20 students that said, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ So, we started a team knowing almost nothing, right? … And we were very fortunate that first season that we…had some success, won quite a few awards, and won the Colorado Regional. And it just kind of blew up and exploded from there.” And the appreciation still holds firm in their 16th season, as Julia Tate stated that, “As a FRC student in general, it’s more than just robots…the students are building the robot, but the robot is more building the students.”

CGW participates in what is called FIRST, “For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” an international organization and competition that sees kids from 4-18 compete in multiple levels of competition. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is the highest level of FIRST, seeing high schoolers build a robot from scratch within 6 weeks to play a completely new game revealed to them right after the New Year, and then compete with teams around the world. [2] These 6 weeks, referred to as “Build Season,” in which students build the robot, has them working every day after school from 5 to 8, and Saturdays from 9 to 4. At the end of that time, CGW hosts an annual Scrimmage held this year on February 24th, 2024, for other teams around Colorado to play an unofficial match of this year’s game in order to test their designs and seek advice, inspiration, and connections with other teams, which numbered 22 teams this year.

A match during the Robotics Team’s Scrimmage on February 24, 2024.

Now that Scrimmage has happened, CGW has switched into “Competition Season,” which comes with its own difficulties, as Julia Tate said, “Now that we’re in Competition Season, we meet less per week, so we have less time to work on the robot, or to plan things like driver practice or scouting practice.” On the same topic, Mr. McLean also stated that “when students have something to build, it’s easy to be more focused,” hoping that the only thing students have to do now is tweak the bot to make it better, in addition to testing it more. “I always try to stress to people that, yeah, the robot can be phenomenal, but you need the driver to be good as well, and that takes practice.”

With Competition Season comes competitions (mind-blowing, right?), in which the team travels to both an out-of-state regional and the Colorado Regional. At these Regional events, the game is played in a competitive format, with groups of three robots on each team trying to get the most points for their alliance to advance in ranking. However, as CEO Julia Tate stated, “The group of three that you are in will be different for each qualification round, so you learn how to work with whoever you’re with. They call it Coopetition,” which is a key philosophy of FIRST along with Gracious Professionalism. During the finals matches, eight alliances are selected, and they compete to win the Regional, which will advance them to a spot at FIRST Championships, this year being held in Houston, Texas. No matter what happens during this time, Julia Tate commented that “On our team, every student is there to learn to the best of their ability.”

The last few Build Seasons have been tough on the team, with the pandemic having taken a lot of their “technical manufacturing knowledge and technical skills” as Mr. McLean stated. It was an especially tough season last year, since halfway through Build Season, the robot design was scrapped, and a new design had to be quickly fabricated. That Competition Season was one of the most frustrating ones that CGW has gone through, and Mr. McLean explained more. “When you think about the Colorado Regional…we finished third, but I mean we were so, so close to getting into that finals match, and earning ourselves a berth to Championships…what I hope is it created a real hunger within the team to get that close and not quite make it.” And that hunger was most definitely created, as Julia Tate supported in stating that “We were five points away from going to Championships. So, this season, I am determined to go to Championships.” With Cougars Gone Wired heading on the road next week for the Denver, Colorado Regional, we wish them good luck and success.

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