Berkeley High School robotics team vies for world title

While most Bay Area students are off enjoying spring break, some are back in the classroom working towards a world championship title.

From the hallways of Berkeley High School, the sounds of students tinkering with machinery filled the corridors.

"The shop is open every day this week," said James Underwood, co-captain of the high school’s robotics team Berkelium. "We’ve just got to get ready for the championship."

The robotics team has a roster of 67 students, and they were joined Tuesday by their championship qualifying robot named Lithium.

Lithium, is an industrial looking four-wheeled machine that has a knack for scooting across the floor and accurately tossing items.


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The team recently qualified for the first time to compete for a world title in the international FIRST Robotics Competition. The event is scheduled to take place in Houston in the coming weeks.

"We’re really excited," said student Emma Huang. "I’m part of the design team. I’ve learned a lot about teamwork and how to design a robot."

The robotics team has spent the last 10 weeks building Lithium and teaching it how to pick up inflatable cubes and plastic cones and project them into baskets and onto cones.

When the team heads to Houston on April 19, they’ll compete alongside 600 other teams.

Right now, the team is focused on modifying Lithium. Once that’s done the robot will be dismantled down to the wheels and gears before being redesigned and rebuilt. The goal it to build an even better robot.

"Right now, the problem we’re trying to solve is we can’t get Lithium to shoot high," said Underwood. "We can’t get to the highest rung, so we’re making some pretty major system modifications."

On Tuesday, the students made corrections to the machinery.

"Everything needs to be tight, checked and double-checked," said robotics and digital electronics teacher Dirk Wright. "We’ll be really happy if we never break down. We’ll be even happier if our stats look better than they have in the past."

The upcoming competition is viewed as the Super Bowl.

Team Berkelium has come a long way since it’s rocky start. Fresh off their qualifying win the robotics team is celebrating, all the while looking forward to the international FIRST Robotics Competition.

"Definitely excited," said Huang. "And to get to know a lot of the other teams there because they’re going to have a lot of insight."