Robotics at Rahway High School: An Interview with Mr. McCullough

Oliver Watson and Ryan Silva are co-leaders of RHS's Team 1228 RoboTribe.

There have been numerous questions at Rahway High School about the school’s Robotics Team and its upcoming competition. In order to answer some of those questions, and keep the school and community up-to-date, the high school’s student newspaper, Rho Eta Sigma, sent reporter Shahid Williams to interview technology teacher and Robotics Team advisor Mr. William McCullough about this year’s RoboTribe.

Q: So tell us a bit about the Robotics Team.

A: First, let me say that anyone can join, and we’re always looking for new members. We’re entering our 14th year, and this is my second as the advisor. My co-advisors are Mr. Santner and Ms. Monteiro.

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I think of Team 1228 RoboTribe as a small company because we need many heads and hands to produce a fully functional robot in only six weeks. Our season starts with the FRC Kickoff on the first Saturday of January each year. The specific requirements for the robot we need to build will be revealed this year on Saturday, January 7, 2017.  I believe the last day for us to work on the robot will be February 20.

There is so much more to the team than just building a robot, though. Once we find out what the objective of the competition is, the team needs to fully understand the written scoring parameters of the game and start coming up with design ideas for the robot.

Students may get involved in any one or more aspects of what it takes to get our robot to the competitions. Some of the primary areas are designing, manufacturing, building (electrical, pneumatics, metal parts, etc.), programming, operating/driving the bot, pit-crew for fixing the bot while at competitions, safety, fundraising, and multimedia. We have a website and produce literature, team buttons and other items to hand out at the meets. Graphic arts is also a big part of what we do. We usually design “skins” for the robot and tee shirts for the team members going to the competitions.  

Q: What are competitions like?

A: The competition itself is a lottery three-on-three. No team knows who they will be teamed up with until the actual day of the meet. Each team usually has “scout” students who go to meet and talk to other teams they’re teamed with to find out what each team’s robot can and cannot do so that the “drive” team knows how to work with each robot in order to maximize scoring. Each match lasts two-and-half minutes. On Saturday, each team enters about eight matches and on Sunday about four. On Sunday, successful teams move onto the final round. There were 39 teams at each of the three competition weekends we participated in last year.

Q: What kind of students would make good additions to the team?

A: Students who like a challenge, are mentally tough and who have determination to accomplish something. Just like learning anything in school, some subjects come easier than others. Similarly, some aspects of building a robot and competing are easier than others. We’re always looking for students who are tenacious and like competition.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: In terms of classes I offer, I teach two related to robotics specifically: Introductory and Advanced Robotics. I also teach Introductory and Advanced CAD (computer-aided design and drafting). All of my classes use the latest technology and software, from 3D printers to the latest robotics kits, like Lego’s Mindstorms NXT and EV3. Students interested in Team 1228 or anything else I’ve mentioned should definitely stop by Room 118 for more information. 


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