Malibu High Robotics Team Gets a Second Chance

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MHS robotics team seniors, pictured from left: Jaime Le, Sam Burton and Izzy Putterman

After months of hard work, the Malibu High School (MHS) Robotics Team is preparing to compete for the second time at the VEX Robotics World Championship in Louisville, Kentucky from April 19-22. 

The five-man team — made up by seniors Izzy Putterman, Sam Burton and Jaime Le, junior Louie Putterman and freshman Ben Burton, with advisor Brian Corrigan — recently competed in the VEX State Robotics Championships in Bakersfield, taking home two awards, the Robot Skills Award and the AMAZE Award, placing them 39th in the world. 

“This season has been just as amazing as last season,” captain Sam Burton said. “Got through to the finals of our first competition, won our third and our fifth, and won 15 awards. We placed 39 in the world at the ‘skills’ competition, and third in California. This season, we’re applying the knowledge we gained in our first year through trial and error, to help us design and plan our robot better.” Burton is looking forward to attending the University of Southern California in the fall. 

Hundreds of hours have been devoted to creating the perfect robot, which the team has named Huggles because of its unique claw which allows for quick “pick ups” during the competition, according to the MHS boys. Juggling extracurriculars and academics, the MHS team has used every spare minute to better their robot, and improve upon their errors of the previous year. 

“We have been working on this robot since the beginning of the school year, which was back in August 2016. Since then, I have put in well over 100 hours,” Le, Pepperdine-bound in the fall, explained. “The first semester before soccer I worked on the robot during my free period, lunch, support period and after school for a couple hours every day.

“The team overall has probably put in over 1,000 man hours of work into the robot — and more, if we count travel,” he estimated.

The team is eagerly anticipating a second shot on the world stage. Last year’s team, which consisted of Izzy Putterman, Sam Burton, Jaime Le, and Malibu High alumnus Harry Putterman — who is currently attending California Institute of Technology (CalTech) — competed for the first time in the World Championships. Although it was a tremendous accomplishment for the team, they placed 77th, which the boys hope to better this year.

“This season, I feel like we knew what we were doing,” Izzy Putterman, who will attend the University of California Berkeley in the coming school year, added. “Last year, we had no idea about any of the setup or procedure of the tournaments. This year, we know what we have to get done and the deadlines of them. We also understand all the mechanics of the tournament.”

They also hope to use their new members, Louie Putterman and Ben Burton, to help them do even better this year. 

“Being new on the team has been a very educational experience. When I joined I didn’t know very much about the parts, coding, game strategy, et cetera,” Louis Putterman, younger sibling to Louis and Harry, said. “Thankfully, the seniors on the team have been very kind and willing to give up their time to help teach me all about robotics.”

The World Championships is a huge tournament, in which the 600 highest ranking teams from across the globe come together to compete for the international title. The teams are divided into six divisions, and within each division there are 10 qualifying matches. After these matches, the continuing teams are able to choose alliances to battle against each other until they reach the elimination rounds, where they compete until the finish. 

Each team is placed against an opposing robot across a fence, where the goal is to throw the most three-dimensional cubes and stars across the fence before time runs out. In order to compete, it is important to maintain a strong team dynamic, according the the MHS students.

“As far as the team goes, we all get along really well. We can all share our ideas, and everyone has contributed to the design of the robot,” Sam Burton said.

“We’ve only been spending every school day together at lunch for the last three years, and countless hours together after school together hanging out and doing robotics,” Le noted. “We know each other very well and that is very helpful. We know we can always depend on each other to do what needs to be done.” He added that even when the team argues, they are able to smooth past differences to achieve their greater goal. 

As the deadline for the World Championship draws nearer, the MHS robotics team is looking forward to improving on last year’s results, and setting new records for the high school.