SYRACUSE — For the past two years, Wawasee Robotics team 574C has been in the spotlight for holding the world-record in the Vex Robotics Skills Challenge. They have had a winning 2018-19 season with 125 match wins and only 11 match losses.
They twice qualified for the Vex Worlds Robotics Championship by winning the Indiana State Championship in March and the Kalahari Classic signature event in January. They also earned 28 trophies at the 13 events they attended. Their accomplishments may look easy, but the four-year journey to get to this point has consisted of its share of struggle mixed with hard work and determination.
Nick Murphy — Senior, robotics engineer and notebook creator, WHS super mileage team manager, Academic Hall of Fame, National Honors Society, employed at Casey’s, headed to Purdue to major in aerospace engineering
Joe Kelsheimer — Senior, robotics scout/social media guru, working toward Eagle Scout rank, employed at McDonalds, attending Indiana State in the fall to major in political science
Micah Rassi — Senior, robotics programmer, WHS super mileage team member, musician, employed at Raven Industries, headed to Purdue to major in robotics engineering technology
Evan Rassi — Sophomore, robot driver, musician, competitive video game player
It is a daunting challenge to combine electronics and metal into a cohesive unit capable of accomplishing specific tasks. Add project management, strategic planning, and vital people skills to that engineering feat and you can understand the vast learning opportunity which is provided by Wawasee High School Robotics.
574C team members Joe Kelsheimer and Nick Murphy had a tough freshman year in robotics. Their team assessed its weaknesses and recruited programmer, Micah Rassi, in hopes of being more competitive as sophomores. A new teammate meant new team dynamics. “574C’s strength has always been their willingness to put the end goal ahead of their momentary struggles. They continually evaluate ways to improve, smooth out frustrations, and problem solve,” said head coach Jed Wandland. The year started slowly, but the team work ethic began paying off as they slowly began climbing in standings. By the end of the season, they had fought their way to 7th in the state in skills and ended up winning the last tournament to secure a spot at the Indiana state tournament.
As juniors, the team continued to look for ways to improve so they could hold their own against the top Indiana teams. After years of losing video games to his younger brother, Micah proposed the team recruit his freshman sibling, Evan Rassi, to replace him as driver. They hoped this change would allow the team members to specialize. Nick would be the creative engineer and notebook coordinator, Joe could focus on scouting and social media connections, Micah would have more time for programming, and Evan could give them a competitive edge through game strategy and driver control. They all pitch in for brainstorming and building and help where they can, but this specialization seemed to make a big difference in 2017. They not only became a top-tier team in the state, but they broke world skills records during the season and ended their year competing on national television and earning third place in the Vex Worlds Skills Challenge.
Victory had brought opportunity and blessing, but also a fair amount of criticism. The new season came with a pressure to perform and a desire to prove their success was not just a twist of luck. Senior, Micah Rassi shared, “Robotics has taught us a lot. It’s been a team effort. Not just 574C, but all of Wawasee Robotics, the teams within our state, and teams across the nation. We have learned a bunch while problem solving and collaborating with others, so we try to reach out and help others when they need help as well.” This supportive attitude, along with their current winning season and world record skills scores, has put them in the spotlight. They have spoken to community organizations, appeared in televised interviews and internet forums, and have been sought after for advice.
They are excited and hopeful for the 2019 Vex Worlds Competition in Louisville, to be held April 24-27 since it will be the last high school competition for the three graduating seniors. They hope to go out with a bang and pave a clear path for the future of Wawasee High School’s Iron Pride Robotics.