Wendy Louttit wanted to provide a new opportunity for her kids to learn about robots, so she started a robotics team for high school students. Beginning in November of last year, team JetStream began meeting each week in her garage to learn what it takes to build a robot.
“(It’s great) watching how they learn and grow from not really knowing where to start to building a whole robot,” Louttit said.
The nonprofit team, composed of 9 members from various high schools in the South Bay, earned top honors at LA Fleet Week’s Battleship Blast High School Robotics Competition over Labor Day weekend.
While the word “robot” often conjures images of a humanoid figure resembling C-3PO in Star Wars, the robots Louttit’s team built for the competition look more like a complicated mass of machinery.
“Have you ever seen Battlebots?” Louttit said. “This is the opposite of that … our robots work together (in this competition).”
Although this is the first year Fleet Week has included a robotics competition, there are other organizations that host similar competitions. One such group is FIRST Robotics, an international high school organization that challenges students every year to design and build a robot to compete in a featured game.
This year’s game, First Power Up, had students trapped in a video game in which they worked together to move yellow cubes to tip a scale. Six teams with three robots worked together to see which teams could form the greatest alliance and move the cubes around in their favor. During the last 30 seconds of each match, robots “face the boss” where the robot climbs a tower scale, and the alliance with the most points wins.
“They learn how to work together,” Louttit said. “‘Your robot is going to go over there, this robot is going to stop that robot over there.’ That’s where a lot of the strategy comes in. It’s a lot of fun.”
This year’s winning alliance on day one of the competition included Jetstream; day two’s top alliance also included JetStream, paired with two groups from Torrance’s South High School, Code Orange and Torbots.
While this was the last competition of the season, JetStream is gearing up to volunteer at a competition in Irvine called Beach Blitz. Louttit said the team is also looking for more students to join since some of its previous members graduated last spring, one of which was Louttit’s son, who is now studying robotics in college.
Louttit’s 16-year-old daughter, Caroline, is a also member of JetStream and said she loves the excitement that these types of competitions bring.
“[I love] the outreach to young students [and] watching their faces light up as they get to see a robot in action,” Caroline said.
Louttit encourages students who are interested in joining the team or learning more about robotics to contact JetStream at frc2710JetStream@gmail.com.