BOHS Mubotics Turns Wires, Wheels into World Championship-Qualifying Robot

Clara+Lee%2C+senior+and+Mubotics+president%2C+works+on+Washington%2C+the+robot+that+competed%2C+and+placed+sixth%2C+at+the+National+Championships+in+Houston+in+April.+The+Mubotics+program+was+founded+in+2018%2C+and+applies+math+and+science+to+create+competition+robots.

Alexis Alexander

Clara Lee, senior and Mubotics president, works on “Washington,” the robot that competed, and placed sixth, at the National Championships in Houston in April. The Mubotics program was founded in 2018, and applies math and science to create competition robots.

Since 1984, BOHS’s most famous robot was the T-800, otherwise known as the Terminator, a creation of former Wildcats James Cameron and William Wisher, Jr. (’73). But in 2022, a new robot appeared at 789 Wildcat Way: “Washington,” Competitive Robotics Team 7157’s 104-pound invention that competed at the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) World Championships in Houston from April 20 to April 23. 

Unlike the bipedal menace from Cameron’s sci-fi film, Washington (named after George Washington because the robot was completed on the first president’s birthday, Feb. 22), is a boxy contraption on wheels laced with orange wires, green circuit boards, and LED lights. Team number “7157” adorns the contraption’s base, which houses air intakes to retrieve balls and large rubber wheels for maneuvering around obstacles. 

Mubotics, also known as Competitive Robotics, was founded in 2018 by students and mentor, Eric Eichinger, Robotics coach. While running the summer Boeing internship, Eichinger noticed that many of his interns from other schools were involved in First Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competitions (FRC). 

This sparked Eichinger’s idea to start a Robotics club at BOHS. Later, with his son, Johnny Eichinger (‘18), and other interested students, they launched Mubotics at BOHS, building their robot in the garages of mentors’ or students’ houses. (A lack of building tools and financial support prevented the group from meeting on campus.) 

Since then, Brandi Augenstein, Career Counseling Coordinator and Mubotics advisor, and Eichinger, have been helping this student-run club compete against other robotic teams from around the world.

With BOHS Mubotics not having their own workshop, they partnered with Sunny Hills High School (SHHS) in 2019 during a Deep Space-themed season. This allowed Mubotics members to meet at the SHHS workshop to work and collaborate.

“[SHHS Robotics] is very integrated into our team, and basically half our leadership is part Sunny Hills students and part [BOHS] students,” Jinhee Lee, senior, said.

However, at the start of 2021, SHHS adopted new management policies that prevented BOHS from working on their campus, leaving BOHS members without a place to work. After searching the BOHS campus, Mubotics members commandeered work spaces in empty classrooms and hallways, and even in the faculty parking lots.  

Despite working in these less-than-ideal practical spaces, the members’ “sheer determination” led the crew to building the championship-caliber Washington.

Every year, new rules and themes are set at the World Championships for which the robotics team must follow. Once BOHS Mubotics receive all the information, they start building, programming, and designing their robots. 

A typical Mubotics meeting consists of group discussions within their sub-groups. In these smaller groups, members work on certain parts of the robot, which include: designing, manufacturing, fabricating the robot, and testing the drive. Then, once all the groups have finished creating and computing the robot functions, the members come together with their parts and piece the robot as one.

“The process for [building the robot] has a lot of prototyping when the season first starts. We start with an idea, then it turns into a prototype and lots of rapid iteration, until we have our final designs,” Nolan Nicassio, junior, said.

Enduring sleepless nights, long calls, and extra meetings, the team was rewarded with a ticket to the World Championships. “The last time our team made it to Houston was in 2018, and to have the chance to do it again was exhilarating,” David Lim, junior, said. “It really does feel like our work paid off, because not only did we qualify, but we managed to keep up with the top teams in our division.”

To prepare for competitions, all 25 members of Mubotics began meeting in January, with additional Discord calls and sleepovers on weekends, to build the robot that would lead them to the World Championships in Houston from April 20 to23. 

The theme for this year’s season was “Rapid React,” so Mubotic members built a robot that could maneuver across an arena and shoot balls into hoops as many times as possible in under three minutes.

“It was our initial goal to go to ‘Worlds’ this year, which was an extremely high, but attainable, goal, and the team decided to put in more time, not only because we are committed, but because we enjoy working together,” Christine Cheon, senior, said.  

This season, the team traveled from Orange County to Los Angeles and Sacramento to compete in three regional competitions. In Sacramento, they received a ticket to the World Championships as a “wild card,” a merit earned for placing second out of the 3,200 teams who competed in the California competitions.

After advancing to the World Championships, Team 7157 was randomly placed in the Newton Division, one of six divisions, named after famous physicists  — Newton, Galileo, Carver, Hopper, Roebling, and Turing.

Given a random team alliance for the qualification matches, some members worked in the team’s “pit,” a place where they completed any last-minute touches on Washington. Other members were scouts and observed other competitors to identify weaknesses and strengths that could play to Mubotics’ advantage during the elimination rounds. 

The goal was to get all four ranking points (RP), and the top eight teams would get to choose their first alliance partner that would compete with them in the elimination round. The robot had to complete tasks like getting cargo balls into a hub or climbing a set of monkey bars. 

During one match, the bumpers of the robot came off, which caused Mubotics to lose that round. In order to stave off elimination, the members went to other teams they had befriended, asking for materials to make the bumpers more stable and sturdy. 

“Being at a high ranking, every single RP matters. By losing, it cost a lot and we dropped six spots which is really drastic,” Clara Lee, senior and Mubotics president, said. 

Mubotics ended up placing sixth — out of 76 teams — in the Newton Division.

“It really does feel like our work paid off, because not only did we qualify [for Houston], but we managed to keep up with the top teams in our division,” Lim said.

However, advancing to the World Championships in Houston came with a cost. With extra funds needed to cover the cost of supplies, competition fees, and travel expenses, members needed to fundraise. 

The team won grants from NASA, Boeing, and Disney, and received donations from the Brea community. They also presented to local organizations such as the Brea P.D. Foundation, Rotary Club, and BOHS’s CTE department, to spread awareness of Mubotics. With this support, the team received $56,000, covering the competition fee of $16,000, traveling expenses which cost about $33,000, and $7,000 worth of tools.

Mubotics not only includes those who want to pursue engineering, but also those who are passionate about designing, constructing, and managing businesses.

With the club having so many students with different interests, Lee wanted to “create a welcoming and inclusive environment” where the team could bond over the building of robots. “There’s no required hours to help build a robot. It’s just people simply enjoying robotics and the culture we have around here,” Lee said.  

Because of all the different skills that robotics requires, the club is divided into two branches: a business branch, where money and fundraisers are handled, and the technical branch, where they work on the robot functions. 

“The robotics program is not just for the kids that want to build and design a robot,” Augenstein said. “There’s a whole business side of it for people that want to go into business and accounting and project management and leadership.

What holds the Mubotics club together is not only their success and work ethic, but the chemistry between members. This team-first dynamic gives members a reason to be passionate about robotics and is ultimately what keeps them so close with one another. 

“Another thing we think is essential to our cohesiveness as a team is how much fun we have. Rather than seeing Robotics as a club where I am working, I love to come just to enjoy my time learning and spend time with the team,” Cheon said.

“I think the best thing about our team is that it is just the best group of people to be around. Everyone gets along super well and helps each other and we are all still competitive and put in all our effort to help the team,” Connor Tracey, junior, acknowledged. 

As members look back at the successful year they’ve had, they acknowledge their many achievements — placing in three regionals, advancing to the World Championships for the first time since 2018, and raising over $56,000 dollars.

“It’s unbelievable how much technical knowledge we’ve applied to make an amazing robot, but more than that, I’ve enjoyed all the hours we put into this team, the relationships we’ve grown, and the knowledge we’ve learned all together,” Lee said.