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Atascadero’s world-champion robotics team needs your help

Atascadero High School’s Greybots robotics team won its second world championship title in Houston at the FIRST World Championships in Houston in April with its Bloodhound robot.
Atascadero High School’s Greybots robotics team won its second world championship title in Houston at the FIRST World Championships in Houston in April with its Bloodhound robot.

Last year, I wrote about Atascadero High School’s robotics team, colloquially known as the Greybots.

I recalled in that column about one of my earliest toys being the Erector Set manufactured by the A.C. Gilbert Co. I loved “tinkering” with the stuff they crammed into a small package of girders, nuts, bolts and more. The more expensive kits even included an electric motor. Mine had a wind up source of power.

I’m never happier than when someone turns to me and says, “Can you help me put this together?” I love to pull stuff out of a cardboard box and join two pieces of wood using those neat little fasteners.

My Erector Set provided hours of fun. I came across a vintage Erector Set in an antique store recently and convinced myself I didn’t need it. When I came to my senses and went back to buy it, it was gone.

In other words, I was a hands-on kind of kid and not particularly cerebral. I would have loved being part of a team that designed a robot that could put a round ball into a hoop.

Atascadero’s robotics squad has brought world championships back here to our community, including at this year’s competition in Texas where they beat 400 teams from around the globe to take the title. It was the team’s second world championship.

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The Greybots’s Bloodhound robot competes at the FIRST World Championship in Houston in April. Chris Lawson

But, Houston, we have a problem. Funding a top doesn’t come cheap, and the winners don’t get any money.

I have discovered recently that it takes close to $60,000 a year to provide this unique learning experience to the approximately two dozen high-school-level students. Actually, last year’s expenses were $62,200, according to an adult sponsor. Each students pays $500 in support of the team, which covers expenses to attend competitions.

Just building the robot costs more than $10,000. Now, the youth are already signed up for the 2018 contest in Houston, and the team still has to come up with the $5,000 registration fee.

The school district is unable to fund the robotics team. The high school does let the youth use a shop classroom and work in a small building located at the rear entrance to the campus — actually the old band room and before that, the boy’s dormitory.

The registration money is due in October for the 2018 competition.

That’s why the students and their parents have begun their fundraising efforts in anticipation of the next competition season. The team doesn’t even know what task its robot will be required to perform.

They do know that if they don’t earn the money, there won’t be a contest with their name on it. I’m glad to report that last year’s fundraising brought in $77,000. That means they have a little more than $12,000 in the kitty already.

They’ll have a big fundraiser in October.

If you want to help ensure the team’s existence, you can donate now with a check to the Atascadero Education Foundation at PO Box 642, Atascadero, CA 93422. Just mark in the memo section of the check “robotics team.”

Lon Allan’s column is special to The Tribune. He has lived in Atascadero for five decades and his column appears here every week. Reach Allan at 805-466-8529 or lonallan39@gmail.com.

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