East Ridge Robotics Paves the Way, One Robot at a Time

by | Jan 2024

The 2023 season competition robot, EnergizERR.

The 2023 season competition robot, EnergizERR. Photo: Chinh Dao

East Ridge Robotics leads a team of 70 with grace, curiosity and dedication.

When the East Ridge Robotics Ominous Raptors team, ERROR 3130, first started in 2009, there were 10 members and one mentor. Fast forward to 2022, the team consisted of 54 members. In 2023, the team has grown to 70 members. The undeniable growth of the team is to the credit of the students and the success they’ve achieved. Last year, ERROR 3130 competed in two regional events and went on to semi-finals at both. The team won the impact award at regionals, which took them to worlds in Houston. Plus, project management lead Giorgia Mattana, a senior, was a Dean’s List Finalist.

The most obvious difference about this extracurricular activity next to others is the heavy focus on remaining student-led. Although the team is equipped with knowledgeable mentors, it’s the students who sit in the steering positions, lead decision making discussions, manage the budget and head up the various branches of the team. The seven mentors then take a high level approach to consulting and roadblock mitigation.

The team is split into separate branches: building, impact and business, each of which has a captain and team members who focus on specific aspects of what the total team does. Those on the building branch learn and leverage coding and work with electronics to build the team’s robot. The impact branch focuses on social media, photography and connecting with the community for both marketing and outreach purposes. And lastly, the business branch manages the finances but also has the enormous task of finding sponsors and applying for grants. It takes $50,000 a year to keep competing. Senior and business captain Andrew Padmanabhan has always felt eager to step up to the financial challenge, but he claims there’s more to it, and says, “It’s less about raising the money and more about making a system that people can repeat.” Andrew will be reaching out to 450 businesses this year, on top of applying for grants as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Eric Morley, owner of Big Frog Custom T-shirts and More in Woodbury, was unfamiliar with robotics until he received an order for competition T-shirts. “They were one of our very first customers,” Morley says. Sparking his newfound interest, Morley started researching the extracurricular program to understand more, and in turn, get involved. “It’s not only kids building robots, which is already cool, but it’s also a bit like a sport and a competition,” Morley says. “You compete originally, but there’s a component to it about cooperation because later teams must work together, despite having just faced off. It gives them real-world, hands-on experience working through problems with others.” Inspired by his findings, Morley became a sponsor for the team, alongside other companies, including 3M and Medtronic. His reasoning? “They are professional, mature kids that give me hope for the future for the next generation,” he says.

East Ridge Robotics Team

Photo: Owen Smith

The start of each year begins in the fall with preseason preparation and training, where the focus is onboarding new students to the team and assigning members to their branches. “You don’t have to have any engineering or robotics experience to join. We teach all of that to incoming members,” says senior and lead Juhae Song. “It’s critical that we delegate efficiently, so the next generation is prepared before the current seniors graduate.” In addition to training new members in high school, ERROR 3130 also mentors younger robotics teams (fourth through eighth grades) at the FIRST Lego League Challenge in South Washington County.

From January to mid-April, the team focuses heavily on building and preparing for competition. The robot takes about six weeks to build, but senior and build captain Cody Atkinson admits that generally this is their busiest part of the season, clocking 35–40 hours a week in the shop. Giorgia says, “Our parents always use that bed and breakfast joke … that we’re only home to eat and sleep.”

When the school year ends and summer begins, ERROR 3130 gears up for outreach, where every member is involved with events May through August, including an information table at Woodbury Days. Juhae and impact captain Eleanor Johnston, junior, work to facilitate over 30 annual outreach events and reach over 50,000 people in the community each year. Eleanor describes impact as, “what your team does to promote robotics in the community.” The team won the impact award for its work promoting equality and inclusion in the STEM community.

There is no shortage of generosity or dedication from these team members. They and their robot are definitely going places. (Their hope? To make it to finals at regionals this year.)

Facebook: ERRORs 3130
Instagram: @errors3130
X: @errors3130
YouTube: ERRORS 3130


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