Robotics: a way of life for the Frances

February 10, 2017 — by Stephen Ding and Alexandra Li

Frances family gets really into robotics. 

A couple weeks ago, senior Kyle France stood around the food-filled counters in the robotics room, finishing up his plate of pasta as he talked with his parents and others around him on how they could improve their robot.

For France, this was a normal dinner. He is part of a family that has robotics ingrained in their blood: his mom Dianne is the manager of the club, his dad Bob is the lead technical mentor and his brother, 2014 alumnus Ivan, once led the mechanical team.

During freshman year, Kyle joined the hardware team because of his interest in using the CAD software and 3D modeling to design the robot, which they submit to the FRC competition, before physically building it. From then on, Kyle found himself deeply invested in M-SET, spending at least 40 hours many weeks in the club room.

“I have to balance orchestra rehearsals with robotics,” Kyle said. “But I’m not in too many outside of school activities, so I can usually find the time even though it is a press to get homework done.”

Kyle’s first exposure to robotics came in fifth grade, when he joined the First Lego League team that his parents had helped to start. His parents had started helping the high school team when Ivan was a freshman, and they became more involved with M-SET over the years as the family found that they had a common passion for the team. Nevertheless, Kyle said his parents let him decide what to do.

“They’ve been really good with letting me take it however intensely I want, and I’m also super into it so there’s not really a problem there,” Kyle said.

This year, the competition topic, announced on Jan. 7, required robots of each team to scoop up and shoot balls into a goal, carry plastic gears and hang them on pegs, and climb a rope at the end. After the kickoff, build season began, during which the team was given six weeks to put together a fully functioning robot that meets as many requirements as possible.

“Sometimes I feel like it’s a little bit of a rush to get things done, and I’m unable to take as much time on things as I’d like,” Kyle said. “But it still is good to keep me on my toes and keep pushing.”

Because they spend so much time together, the bond between Kyle and his parents has continued to grow.

“I get along uncommonly well with my parents,” Kyle said. “There are pros and cons of having them there, but for the most part it's actually pretty convenient. A lot of other students have parents who are mentors as well.”

However, because the family is so invested in the Robotics club, they sometimes find it hard to find time for other activities. Dianne has also found herself putting as much time into the club as Kyle does.

“Many parents are only active in activities their children are in, but because we run the program, we'll be at the school even when Kyle isn't,” Dianne said. “Sometimes we'll be at an all-day tournament with a younger team and he's home by himself all day.”

Although a major part of her participation in the club is due to her children’s interests, Dianne truly loves the program and believes it teaches the students lessons that are vital to life, such as giving them a chance to make mistakes and learn how to improve their work.

“As a mom, I'm proud of his intelligence, his designs and his abilities in metalworking,” Dianne said. “But I'm most proud because he's grown into a really nice person who's conscientious and respectful — a good teammate.”

 

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