The heat of sport gets mechanical

Man and machine collide to create a new form of companionship


Will Clark, Staff Writer

Wakefield is well-known for its strong sports teams, but a new team is on the rise. Wakefield Robotics Club is a club that focuses on building a robot to compete in regional competitions. This up-and-coming program can be considered a team due to mounting respect and recognition from regional competitors.

The club was unofficially founded last spring by John Grasso. Grasso recruited fellow peers while keeping a low profile. Last year’s recruitment served as a stepping stone to this year’s rookie season.

Robotics was officially established as a Wakefield club this year with the fall being the start of the Robotics team’s inaugural season. Grasso, club president and founder, knows the difficulties of starting a club better than most.

“The club got started when I reached out to Marie Hopper, regional director of F.I.R.S.T” said Grasso, “That was the most difficult part with all of the Wakefield paperwork being nothing more than logistics.”

F.I.R.S.T stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. F.I.R.S.T is an organization with a goal of educating kids about how science, technology, and problem-solving are not only fun, but are proven paths to successful careers.

“F.I.R.S.T was ecstatic when I approached them with interest in starting a club,” said Grasso. “They were thrilled for our opportunity because $20 million in scholarships are handed out through the organization.”

Most of the fall was spent on additional recruitment that formed a snowball effect in which friends convinced others to join. This system made bolstering the club’s roster much easier than a typical club trying to recruit from scratch. The successful recruitment was the first step towards a key rookie competition season.

Brendan Butler, club advisor, is proud of how the club has come along from an unofficial club to a team competing on a regional, and potentially, a national level.

“Initially we were just trying to figure out what we were doing during lunch meetings,” said Butler. “Later, we hammered out a concrete plan and created officers for the build season.”

The build season started after winter break and is the key part of the season in which the robot is constructed.

“The build season led to a lot of after school work,” said Butler. “We’d spend three hours, even five hours, and at one point we moved the robot to a family’s garage for extensive work.”

As a rookie team, the club is only guaranteed one competition, the regional competition at Dorton Arena in the NC State fairgrounds on March 20 and 21. A trip to nationals in St. Louis is on the line, making finishing in the top eight a daunting task for a rookie team competing against statewide competition. While one would think the pressure is mounting, the Robotics club continues to work efficiently as a group.

Jack Spencer, the leader of robot construction, has a very specific role on the team.

“Most of the meetings I’m leading are in a garage with guys cutting metal and building the actual robot,” said Spencer.

Vice President, Keenan Ransome, speaks highly of the club’s teamwork and work ethic.

“We try to be sure that everyone is working their hardest and contributing to the project equally,” said Ransome.

Butler shares Ransome’s views in that it’s the club members and their tightly knit group that keeps the club running smoothly.

“Though the meetings are always different, there is always a sense of comradery,” said Butler.

With everybody doing their jobs to their fullest, the Robotics Club has had successful rookie season to date. The highlight of the season is yet to come, with the regional championship coming at the end of March. With a good showing and a top eight finish at regionals, the Robotics Club will punch their tickets to nationals, and be on the fast track to Wakefield recognition and respect.