Successful Season: Miege robotics team takes home awards


Norah Heise

Junior Caleb Oblepias and Mr. Anderson set up the pit at the Greater Kansas City Regional.

Norah Heise

The StagRobotics team huddled around a robot, every ounce of attention focused on last-minute changes and tweaks. Off in the corner, a different kind of last-minute adjustments were taking place. Two girls typed away at their Chromebooks, desperate to make changes before the deadline. 

Despite their lack of handling the robot, freshman Sophia Craig and sophomore Maggie Swearingen have an equally important role to play in advertising the team.

The marketing side of the robotics team has practically nothing to do with building a robot. Instead, it focuses on outreach and making the team visible in the community, as well as preparing for the awards that could be earned at competition.

The chairman’s award is given to the team who embodies the mission of FIRST, has an impact in their community, and is the best model for other teams. While the team did not win the award this year, a large portion of the marketing team’s effort is put towards this award. 

“Chairman’s is the biggest award in [FIRST] robotics, so it has the most preparation,” Craig said.

The submission involves a video showcasing the team and a four page essay detailing the last three years of the team’s outreach, structure, and history of past awards. Once the video and essay are submitted, the rest of chairman’s is relatively smooth sailing.

“It’s just a few notecards and talking points expanding on what we wrote in the essay, so it’s very fast and easy,” Craig said. 

StagRobotics did not win the chairman’s award this year, but they were recognized for several other accomplishments. At the Greater Kansas City Regional, they won the entrepreneurship award for the varied ways they fundraised as a team, such as DJ-ing school dances and cleaning up the Miege stadium after football games. Then at the team’s second regional, it won the gracious professionalism award. Neither of these awards have been previously won by the team.

“It took me a long time to get my head around this,” Head Mentor Mr. Anderson said. “What gracious professionalism is, it is being able to work with people in a way that they feel good and you don’t mind working together.”

In a typical season, the StagRobotics team does not do very well when it comes to awards, according to Anderson.

“We’re lucky if we win one award every three years.” Anderson said. “This year was very unusual. I knew we hadn’t been at competition for three years, and it was going to be really critical that we have some success.”

The StagRobotics team did win another award, the Dean’s Finalist award. Junior Caleb Oblepias and Swearingen were semifinalists nominated by the team. The Dean’s List award is given to a sophomore and a junior who is a student leader for their team and community. 

“This year it was pretty obvious who the junior and senior would be,” Anderson said. 

Caleb became a Dean’s List Finalist at the Central Missouri Regional, chosen from among the 23 semi-finalists there. 

“It was really exciting because we have a very talented team,” Oblepias said. “Everyone really knows what they’re doing, so to be selected from everyone else is pretty cool.”

Unlike Chairman’s, the Dean’s List award submission is not prepared by the students themselves.

“That’s a student award,” Craig said, “It goes to a singular student, so the mentors do that.” 

As a finalist, Oblepias was able to attend the FIRST Robotics World Championships in Houston. There he had the chance to watch the robotics finals first-hand and meet the founder of FIRST. 

“It was big,” Oblepias said. “It was cool to see other people who had the same ambitions as me.”

Oblepias’ becoming a finalist is a first for StagRobotics, as is the amount of awards they won this year. Even though they didn’t advance farther than the quarterfinals in any of their regionals, the team had a successful season.

“I didn’t have any preconceived notions of how we were going to do,” Anderson said. “So it was a very pleasant surprise when we did well.”