We’re Psychotic for Robotics!

Apopka High School has many clubs and activities, but none are quite like Robotics. Robotics is a course where you build robots, play in competitions, and have fun. This course is taught by Mr. Macwithey, who is both the Robotics teacher and an Engineering teacher here at Apopka. He helps sponsor the teams and helps lead these teams to their future victories. The Blue and White interviewed Mr. Macwithey and three of his outstanding students.

When asked about RoboticsMr. Macwithey explained, “Robotics is an elective pathway within our Advanced Engineering Application magnet here at Apopka High. Students within the magnet can choose one of the four classes we have in the Applied Robotics curriculum. The first class is called Foundations of Robotics. In that classstudents learn the fundamentals of how small robotic system function and how to upload software to control their movements. This is a ‘hands-on’ class based on the performance measures of each student’s robot. We play many instructional games such as Robot Soccer, Soccer modification, Minefield Challenge, Autonomous Driving Course, and other challenges. Students learn about gear ratios, programming, sensors, and how to function in a variety of groups. In subsequent classes, such as Robotic Design Essentials and Robotic Systems, the student competes against schools from around the state and country. We have sent many teams to the VEX Worlds Robotics competitions. [We also] compete in Lockheed Martin events in February and build underwater robots in the four nine weeks. Students from these classes have gone on to student engineering and work at many local engineering firms such as Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin.” Explaining the Robotics Competitions, Mr. Macwithey said, Our current advanced teams compete in VEX Robotics 2023 game Spin Up. Spin Up is a robotics game where your main goal is to score discs into a basket goalchange the rollers on the side to your color, and cover tiles on the field. Next month we compete in a MACF district competition to build a hand water pump. Then in February, our students will partner with engineers from Lockheed Martin to compete at their facility in the 2023 E-Week Robotics competition. We close the year with MATE underwater comps building ROVs that function underwater. Students have also won several BETA Club robotics competitions.

Is there anything that you would like for the future of this class? “On the horizon, we look to include more aeronautical events to leverage our partnership with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. One of those is the ERAU Drone Competitions and another is the new RADC drone comps. The goal for our engineering magnet is to be the largest high school producer of future engineering in the USA. We are likely already a recognized leader in this field and hope to continue our rise,” Mr. Macwithey stated.

After interviewing Mr. Macwithey, we went to ask Senior Antonio Ayala about Robotics and how he’s preparing for his competitions. We asked Antonio what made him want to join this class and stay. “Robotics has been my favorite class at Apopka High School since my Sophomore year due to my overall interest in the Engineering Magnet and the environment presented in Mr. MacWithey‘s room. The main reason I’ve stayed in the class throughout all of [the] high school was the opportunity to compete against teams all throughout Florida and throughout the World at the World Championship level. Getting a chance to dedicate an entire class to competing through Vex Robotics has been great as it taught me quite a bit about how to build a competition-level robot and how to present our design effectively to judges.” When asked about Robotics from a student’s perspective, Antonio responded“As a student, the class is free-formed and structured so we are mainly competing through Vex Robotics the entire year. While we also do other competitions like Lockheed Martin, MACF Manufacturing Month, and Underwater ROVs, Vex Robotics is the main use of our time. We come into class every day and get straight to work on preparing our robot for upcoming competitions we have, whether it be the 3 home competitions we have or the handful of away events we compete in. Robotics has been a great opportunity as a student to hone in on Engineering based skills and helps prepare us for the rigor of future college-level Engineering courses.We questioned Antonio how he was preparing for the upcoming Robotics competitions: “The way that I prepare for upcoming robotics competitions, for instance being that we have a competition coming up on the 16th of October, I come to class and go straight to work on making sure my robot has all the mechanisms it needs for its completion. After I feel as though the robot is fully builtit becomes just practice and perfection on my team‘s driving and programming so that our robot can perform the best it can during matches. Since this competition is roughly a month away, we plan to use the next week or two to finish building our robot design, and then use the last 2 weeks or so to finish coding our robot and then practice matches with the other teams in class or just practice on the field on our own.

Now we move on to Junior Daniel McAleer. We asked Daniel what made him want to join this class and stay. “I feel like once you really get into robotics and start learning in detail how things work, it’s definitely one of the most fun classes you could take at Apopka. The competition aspect of it really appealed to me, and I knew I loved doing hands-on work where you have to build things. Mr. Mac also made me want to stay in the class because he’s a great teacher and someone I definitely look up to.” Daniel explained his feelings about Robotics, saying, “Robotics, for meis a great group of some of the smartest people on campus. Its where I made a bunch of my best friends and something that I put lot of time into, so it really means a lot to me.” Daniel stated he is going to prepare for the upcoming competitions by “mainly trying to fix our issues without cutting any corners. Last yearwe encountered a few issues in competitions because we put a ‘temporary’ fix on something that wasn’t very strong, and then took it into competition without properly fixing it. [Our] robot is much more solid [this year], so we hopefully won’t have issues like that when competitions come around.” 

To finish off these interviews, we asked a newer member of Robotics, Sophomore Nick Gardener on what he likes about robotics and what he’s doing in the course. I love robotics a lot it’s one of my favorite classes I like problem-solving, driving, and building. I feel like it’s a great class/program to be a part of. I joined robotics not only for fun and to make myself a better engineer. Robotics also helps me with my interactions with classmates and my teamwork ability.” Nick explained what his favorite things in Robotics are, “There are many things thatlove about robotics but my favorite thing about robotics is how Mac gives us the freedom for our build design and how we want to go about building the robot. One thing I would like to learn about robotics is the coding aspect mainly because that’s arguably the hardest part of robotics.” When asking Nick how he and his team are preparing for the competitionshe said, “My team is preparing for VEX spin-up is really just staying on task and really taking our time with revere engineering. There are lots of components that come into play for this year’s game like the intake system and launcher.


As you can see the students in the Robotics program are passionate about the class and its curriculum.