Robotics reaches unprecedented levels of enrollment

September 27, 2018 — by Rohan Kumar

The school’s MSET Robotics Club has reached historical levels of enrollment this year, allowing it to cancel its annual Open House recruiting event after reaching capacity at 120 members.

Interest in the program has been ticking upward. In 2016, the team had 82 registered members.  In 2017, there were 109 registered members.

Sheeba Garg, the president of MSET Boosters, said that a new robotics club at Redwood Middle School has led to the increase in popularity. Many of the freshmen who enrolled the high school club this year were also members of the Redwood club.

The Redwood club will continue to have four teams of 15 students each this year, for a total of 60 members. With many of these students being eighth graders, members will likely continue to flow into its high school equivalent for years to come.

Another factor that helped attract more students to the club is the MSET FRC team’s qualification for the World Championship in Houston last year, Robotics president senior Bassil Shama said. This achievement has helped add prestige to the club’s FRC program, making it more desirable for students hoping to be part of a competitive team.

With interest in robotics growing rapidly and only three club members graduating from the school the previous year, the club has had to expand significantly. In 2016, the club was divided into three teams of 15 members that participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) and one team of 60 members that participated in the FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC), a more advanced competition.

In 2017, the club expanded to include four FTC teams, increasing its maximum capacity from 105 students to 120 students.

The club was unable to expand any further, and interest eventually surpassed the club’s capacity. The club was forced to choose returning FTC members on the basis of skill, and handed out the remaining FTC and FRC positions on a first-come-first-serve basis, ultimately turning down many interested students.

“We were really excited to have so much interest in the club but didn’t want to extend past the number of members where we felt like we couldn’t train those members or have enough work for all the students to have significant roles in the club,” Shama said.

Shama added that various constraints played a role in limiting the club size, most notably the space and parent technical volunteers available to the club. The club is still limited to two buildings in the old music quad but is in the process of having its space expanding in coming years.

Given these constraints, Garg, the Booster’s president, said that the club has reached a good balance between resources and members.

With the mentor support and everything that we do, I think that’s the maximum we can have,” she said. “This is an optimal level at which a club or any organization can operate. And this I think is almost beyond our optimal level, but we are right there.”