Students engineer success for Dreadbots
By Conor Van Dusen
The idea of a robot is likely to conjure images of clanky human shaped machines built by old scientists. However, the term robot applies to more than just that, and here at Dexter High School, a group of trailblazing students are receiving accolades for building their own for use in competitions.
The Dexter Dreadbots is a robotics club established at DHS in 2013. In its first year the young team understandably struggled and finished the season ranked 110th out of the 171 teams in Michigan. The Dreadbots have since improved drastically, experiencing promising success in the past three seasons. They were ranked 39th out of 190 teams in 2014, and in 2015 they finished 16th out of 207 teams, qualifying them for the world championships.
This year, the Dreadbots are led by primary driver Clark Sprague, who drives the robot during competition and is largely responsible for designing the robot.
Sprague has high hopes for the Dreadbots this year.
“We’ve played our two district events already and we did quite well in both of them,” Sprague said. “We have not officially qualified for states yet, but we are about 98 percent certain that we will because we have 96 qualification points. Also, 80 percent of the teams that go to states in Michigan go to worlds, so we’ll likely be going to worlds as well.”
Many people who join the Dreadbots do so to get experience that will likely prove valuable in a future STEM career.
This experience is a large part of what initially drew Clark Sprague and senior driver Peter Boychuk to the club.
“A big thing that is promoted with robotics is STEM fields, so science, technology, engineering, and mathematics,” Sprague said. “Personally, I am very likely going into mechanical engineering at Michigan Tech, and possibly material science”
Boychuk, who also has a role in piloting robots during competition, shares Sprague’s interest in mechanical engineering.
“I was interested in the club because I’ve always been good with my hands, and the club always did really well,” Boychuk said. “I was good at designing stuff and building robots, so I joined. I plan on going into mechanical engineering.”
The Dreadbots allow students interested in engineering and technology a unique opportunity to explore their curiosity while also having fun, and they’re always looking for driven and curious students to add to their team.
The accessibility of Robotics is among the aspects that Cade Wagner appreciates the most about Dreadbots.
“In Robotics everyone can have a job, it doesn’t matter who you are, or what you have to bring to the table, we can always use people,” Wagner said. “We’ll take anyone. We don’t just want engineers, we want anyone with a wide variety of skills and backgrounds because that’s what makes a good team.”