Skip to main content

Midvale Journal

Husky Robotics teaches engineering, creativity and community

Aug 10, 2023 01:19PM ● By Julie Slama

In late spring, Hillcrest High robotics students were ready to pack their bags, their robot, their tools if they got the call.

It would be a chance to return to the world championships, something the inaugural 15-member team did as Rookies of the Year in 2013. The only other year the team qualified to compete was in 2021 when they won the Chairman’s Award at regionals, but worlds weren’t held because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As an alliance captain, the first time ever, as the number six team, the Huskies was in second place after the first of the two-day Utah regional FIRST Robotics Competition. After some “intense” matches in the Charge Up game, they finished 10th and were a bubble team, waiting to see if they’d receive an invitation for worlds, said Clief Castleton, the team’s adviser.

“We’re already starting on the paperwork because it’s easier to cancel paperwork than it is to get it going. One of our new sponsors, Motorola Solutions, will supplement their sponsorship amount if we get the invite to go,” he said.

It was a call that the 49-member team, and their robot Sparky, never got.

Still, it was a strong season for Hillcrest’s FRC team, who had hosted the state’s kickoff.

Freshman David Zank, who was part of the drive team, said there was mechanical issues at regional qualifier, which was held at the Maverick Center.

“Our pneumatic claw kept on breaking and leaking, then the arm itself kept restarting when the robot hit something hard,” he said. “Once we got it working, we started doing really well.”

Freshman Prajeet Verma said their fix was innovative.

“We took four pool noodles and stuffed them on the claw and the part of the chassis where the claw was smacking and used zip ties to hold the noodles on; it worked,” he said. 

It also was a successful season for Hillcrest’s FIRST Tech Challenge teams — 13 members on “Die Toaster Die” team, 16 on the “Toaster Medics” and 16 on “Toaster Strudel,” which was the newly added team this year, Castleton said.

In the FTC game, Power Up, all three Husky teams qualified at area tournaments for state, which was held at Southern Utah University in Cedar City. As an alliance captain, Toaster Medics finished third and earned the design award.

Verma was part of the Die Toaster Die team along with Zank.

“I created the first render the scratch for our robot design. Then, we built it for the next three weeks before I coded it. I finished coding it on the way to Freedom Prep using a hotspot so it would drive smoothly, and the slides would go up and down properly,” he said, adding that he drove the robot that day as well. “I took a couple of mechanically and electronically related classes in middle school (Channing Hall) and found them interesting and helpful.”

Zank, who was on the FTC drive team, joined Husky robotics because “building robots seems like a lot of fun. It turns out it is. The challenges in both FTC and FRC really challenged our teams. It gave us an opportunity to think of how do we do this without making it too complicated? We wanted to keep it simple and have something that worked as well.”

Sophomore Hajoon Park was the team’s chief executive officer.

“I’ve always been interested in engineering, but that passion has really grown because of robotics,” he said. “I’ve built the closest friendships here, and it really feels like a family. I’ve learned a lot. When I first joined, I could build a LEGO piece. Now I’ve learned how to build an entire robot and run a team as a business. One of our mottos is that we’re not just a team or a club, we’re also a business. I’ve learned a lot of business skills and honed my leadership skills with my position. Another thing that really has stuck with me is learning that you’re never going to get anything you don’t ask for.”

This year, Husky Robotics hosted a FIRST LEGO League state qualifier, which traditionally has been held at Albion Middle School.

“We could have three fields set up instead of just two,” Castleton said, adding that nearby Quail Hollow and Silver Mesa elementary teams participated. “We broadcasted the matches onto the screens in the commons area and showed the rankings and the results.”

The Huskies mentor three LEGO League teams: Palmer Court, Rocket Launchers and Team Go. They also reach out to area middle and elementary schools to show them what is possible through FIRST robotics.

In addition to having a summer robotics camp, the team is helping a film production create interactive robots so patrons can intermingle with them.

“We’re going to have them be controlled by hand gestures or maybe make it so they can play a game of chess,” Castleton said. “A third, smaller robot, we’re going to put a cell phone on it and once it recognizes the most dominant face in the frame, it will follow them around for a bit.”

The robotics team also has helped with other school groups such as creating light-up costumes for the Dance Company and programming their spirit robot, Harv-e 2.0, to launch T-shirts at football games.

“After we successfully did the T-shirt launcher, we dismantled it. That’s the beauty of Harv-e, we work on it in the offseason to reinvent it,” Park said.

Beyond robotics, the team is giving back. The robotics students launched a fundraiser with the school’s Key Club to help a Costa Rican orphanage replace appliances and kitchenware that are in disrepair. Donations to reach the goal of $25,000 are being taken at

Castleton said that Hillcrest’s program isn’t just a bunch of students working on a robot in a lab after school.

“Husky Robotics is the whole organization. It’s the Lego League teams we mentor. It’s all three FTC teams and our FRC team,” he said. “It’s who we are, what we do and how we help our community.” λ