Bionic Bulldogs expand operation

Harrison Covarrubias, Staff Reporter

Riverside Brookfield High School is proud to be the home of a myriad of unique extracurricular activities. Whether advertised over the announcements or on posters throughout the school, if you are a student here, you may have heard of the Bionic Bulldogs, otherwise known as the robotics club. This club features 15 members, 7 of which are current seniors. Managed by Senior Isabella O’Brien, the team can be found building robots as well as their future as a program. 

Established five years ago, the robotics program at RB is part of an organization known as First Tech Challenge (FTC); they’re the ones that organize competitions, rulemaking, provide the teams with grant opportunities, and more. 

The FTC only allows 15 competitors per team which limits the size of the program.However, the Bionic Bulldogs are planning on expanding the size of the program with the creation of a preparatory team. 

“We are trying to make it so that our main team continues to thrive, while also working on building a preparatory team as well,” O’Brien said, “The plan is that members who have been in the club longer secure a spot on the main team with their seniority, so, as we recruit freshmen who are still newer to robotics and STEM, we can treat it more as an educational opportunity to teach them how to prepare for competitions.”  

While assembling a preparatory team at RB, the club is working to fulfill a goal of the FTC: recruiting younger members of the community by educating them about STEM and robotics. So, the club has been in contact with S.E. Gross Middle School in hopes to establish a program there. Once established the RB team members will not be the ones running the program; however, they will continue to help teach the younger members through mentorship. 

One of the mentoring plans already in action includes the team’s hosting of workshops at the public libraries in the area during their off-season, which lasts from February to August. Here, the RB club members explain how to code, use tools, and even create their own teams. 

“It is one of our goals to start teaching kids robotics at a younger age so when they are older they’ve already mastered useful skills for higher level teams, and maybe even start some of their own,” O’Brien said.

With the plans of expansion, the program faces some challenges. One of the biggest setbacks is their lack of funding. With very little aid from the school, the Bionic Bulldogs are left to raise the majority of their spending money on their own.

“One of our core values is community service, which we cover through holding workshops and such, but we also do a lot of trips in hopes to gain the support of sponsors,” O’Brien told me, “An example would be the time we traveled to Chicago in order to present in front of several big engineering companies. There, we explained what we do in terms of spreading the value of STEM, and how their funding would help us in that process.”

These presentations to large companies in hopes to gain sponsorship and donations are a major aid in the program’s funding. With the cost of a single part sometimes costing upwards of $300, the money received is crucial to the success of the team’s performance and upkeep. 

Whether campaigning for funding or preparing for their next victory, the Bionic Bulldogs are inventing new ways for their program to thrive at RB.