Dreadbots robotics team continues building on impressive success rate

The Dreadbots, Dexter High School’s robotic team, dominated the field in their pre-season warm up earlier this month at Ann Arbor’s Forsythe Middle School.

The results were not surprising.

The Dreadbots have performed well over the years, qualifying for the state playoffs every year in their eight year history except for two (seasons one and four). Dexter has even qualified for the World Championship in four of the past seven years.

The season officially starts on Saturday, Jan. 6 with the announcement of the game for the 2018 season. This will signal the beginning of the six-week build season during which the Dreadbots have to determine what parts of the game will be most important to focus on and begin brainstorming, prototyping and designing their robot.

“Students gain experience using shop tools, they see the applications of math, science and other coursework in ways that are real and tangible helping prepare them for the next stages of their education,” says Jennifer Bryson, a Dreadbots mentor. “They gain an understanding of engineering that gives them a leg up as they enter college and as they seek internships. Through FIRST they have the opportunity to apply for and receive college scholarships. They also get to participate in an exciting sport-like competition and to develop friendships with other like-minded students.”

There are about 45 students involved with the team this year and the Dreadbots rely heavily on mentors and volunteers.

“We currently have about 20 mentors along with numerous parent volunteers who help in a variety of areas,” said Bryson. “We can always use more people who are interested in helping in areas of engineering, computer science/programming and marketing as well as those with expertise in shop tools.”
Eight years ago this month, Dexter High School decided to form a FIRST robotics team. The 2010 team’s first competition featured just seven students.

“That year was daunting in that nobody with the team had the experience to know what to expect when we received our Kit of Parts,” Bryson said. “We dove in and quickly set to brainstorming, prototyping and building a robot to compete in that year’s game called, “Logo Motion” a tic-tac-toe type game using pieces shaped like the FIRST logo. By the end of that season we had eight team members. We built in the lead mentor’s basement.”

The team grew to 14 members in season two and they moved up to the garage for two years.

By the fourth season, the Dreadbots were up to almost 30 team members and had begun to utilize Maker Works and to have their build space located in 3808.

“This year we now have about 45 students and are excited for our new partnership with Springmatter where we are currently building,” Bryson said.
During the off-season, the Dreadbots participate in some off-season competitions as well as outreach. Their outreach efforts seek to get the community engaged in STEaM activities and include demonstrations for civic groups, participation in community parades and fund-raising events for local organizations such as Tech Twilight at the Hands-On Museum.

“We also work to continue to hone our skills and prepare our incoming students for the upcoming build season with a variety of trainings including tool training, practice in robot design, lectures to prepare for the season and programming opportunities,” Bryson said.

Sandy Goetz contributed to this story

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