St. John’s Military School FIRST Robotics competition

St. John's Military School Robotics Team

Military School FIRST robotics competition: Oklahoma City, OK 3/27-29/14


Cadets working hands on building “Sidewinder”

For the fourth year in a row, St. John’s Military School FIRST Robotics team will be represented at FIRST robotics competition. St. John’s SJMS Ranger Robotics FIRST Team 3798 will compete along with 62 other teams from across the nation. FIRST was founded by Dean Kamen, President, DEKA Research & Development Corporation. FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology.” Kamen’s intention is to get students excited about Science and Technology, and to open their eyes to the possibility of a career in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

What is a day in the life of the robotics team like? Well, chaotic would be an understatement. It is not uncommon to walk into the room and see the cadets doing 3 or 4 different tasks. This can range from cutting metal, programming motors, making bumpers, mounting electronics or tightening bolts on the chassis. The robotics team finds themselves re-evaluating designs on a daily basis to ensure they’re staying within the guidelines set forth in the manual. “On several occasions during the building process we would be stressed out about something and one of the boys would say, “Ma’am next year, we should… they are always thinking ahead”, says mentor Anna Robles, middle school Science teacher at St. John’s.

St. John’s “Rangers” team members consist of high school military cadets, Michael Barron, Colby Harrison, John Matte, Caelon Tautz, Reece Turner, along with Salina South High School team member, Kevin Kraus, and team mentors, Pam Kraus and Anna Robles of SJMS. St. John’s Military School, The Schwan Food Company, and the Pat Mullen Science, Technology, and Invention Grant from the Greater Salina Community Foundation sponsor the team.

The process of building the robot takes an extreme amount of hard work, teamwork, perseverance, problem solving, and dedication. The robot is to be built in just 6 weeks, and each year new challenges are issued. Past robots had to shoot a basketball or Frisbee. For this year’s challenge, they’re tasked with building a robot that could shoot an exercise ball, about 24 inches in diameter, in a goal. More points can be earned by working with the other two robots on your alliance. A match is 2:30 seconds long and pits the robots 3 on 3, and alliances are chosen at random.

During the six-week build season the cadets and their mentors put in over 350 total hours of work preparing the robot for competition. The long hours, and tedious work are definitely worth it when the team watches the robot they’ve created and designed themselves perform its given task. “As an educator, I get more excited when my students are excited. These boys are very excited about what they have put together, as they should be” says Robles.


St. John’s Military School cadets making adjustments and fine tuning robot.

One of the most rewarding lessons these boys are learning is more than just how to use tools or where to put some wires, they are working together and that is a skill that these boys will need for the rest of their lives. They are building a robot for a competition, but it’s also about cooperation. In FIRST this is referred to as “coopertition”. Everyone is willing to help everyone else. St. John’s Military School faculty, staff, parents, and friends boast with pride at these young men and their abilities to not only work together in complete cooperation, but also represent SJMS in a positive and rewarding manner.

Chemistry teacher at SJMS Pam Kraus is a passionate mentor of the FIRST robotics team. “As a mentor for the SJMS Ranger Robotics FIRST Team 3798, I am continually amazed at the ability of the team members to rise up and meet the many challenges they face. In addition to the design, mechanical, electronic and programming skills the members are learning as they work on the robot, they are learning just as much about responsibility. I am very proud to work with these dedicated high school students and to see the growth they experience through their participation as a member of the SJMS Robotics team”.

Live stream will be available to watch the competition in Oklahoma City on March 27-29 at
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