All Hands On Deck

Robotics students push to build underwater robots


Aidan Block

Robotics students are busy designing and building an underwater robot.

Aidan Block, Staff Writer

Many students know the feeling of reluctantly starting their school day, dozily wishing they could avoid some test they hadn’t studied enough for, or maybe completed the homework they had forgotten. Dragging their feet into the dreaded first period class, the first 45 minutes of a Lake Forest Scout’s day might be filled with daydreaming, waiting for the next passing period.

Sophomore Charlie Weisberg is not one of those students. His first period in Mr Dudeck’s Robotics with Physics class is spent developing skills the average student might not even be aware of.

Weisberg says the project that has Robotics students excited this semester is a submarine made from things you would find at a hardware store, like PVC pipe.

As the students design and build, they are expected to learn about buoyancy, specifically how to find neutral buoyancy in objects as they float. Along with the daunting task of creating a robot that works underwater, Weisberg believes learning this curriculum gives Robotics 2 a unique, complex and challenging experience.

Robotics teacher Matthew Wilen created the idea last year when he was working with a fellow teacher to develop the new Robotics 1 and 2 curriculum.

“We wanted to move on from our traditional terrestrial robots. The clear thought was a submarine,” Wilen said. “We found kits online and ran the robotics club that entered an underwater competition.”

The LFHS Foundation paid for the underwater robotic kits in 2018 with a $3,600 grant to the Science department.

Wilen added that there was the added challenge of a shortened timeline, due to LFHS appearing to be among the first schools to be involved in this program.

“We had to shorten the timeline in order to give them feedback,” Wilen explained, then added. “We’re the only ones in the area that I know about that does this.”

Because of all of the challenges that came with the new program, Wilen says the students really had to step it up to make their deadlines and had to fix many problems on the fly.

Senior Zeyad Alam says what really seems to set Robotics apart from any other class in this school is the freedom it gives.

“This class is very engaging,” Alam said. “I love every idea we come up with in this class because we are encouraged to follow our wildest ideas to see if they work out.”

You can go whatever direction you want in this class, and I love that freedom.”

— Senior Matthew D’Alessandro

Senior Matthew D’Alessandro is in the third-year class, but he looks back on his experience with the same fondness.

“You can go whatever direction you want in this class, and I love that freedom,” D’Alessandro says. “It’s unlike any other class in the school because it channels your creativity.”

It’s this emphasis on creativity and problem solving that has such an impact on Robotics students’ plans for the future, he said.

“This class made me want to become an engineer, which is pretty typical for people taking this class,” D’Alessandro said.

Alam agrees, adding, “Everyone in this room right now has been influenced or will go down this path for a career… it’s probably one of the best classes I’ve ever taken.”

Wilen hopes that the Robotics 2 class will have their submarines ready to join the other Physics classes when they run their boat races on Tuesday, April 30.

The Robotics students still have a lot of work ahead of them, but Wilen is sure that they are up to the task.

“Hopefully they run in the water, so that we can move on to complete an obstacle course,” Wilen said, smiling. “They have time, but there’s a lot to complete.”