The first question you may ask is, what is Robomaster? Robomaster is an international robotics competition started by DJI in 2015, where battle bots are built from scratch and fight in a nail-biting death match against another team of battle bots.
Advanced Robotics at the University of Washington, ARUW, was started in 2016 with a simple mission — To be the Robomasters at Robomaster.
My friend, who was the project manager of the team, recruited me into ARUW and I joined the team a year after its inception. Throughout my time at ARUW, I’ve had the opportunity to serve as a team member and leader — after graduating, a mentor.
I remember when I first joined, walking into the ARUW lab and seeing about 5 or 6 people working diligently on the battle bots. My initial impression was that the team was scrappy with a lot of room for improvement. To be honest, I was initially hesitant of joining the team, but I was swayed after seeing the team member’s heart and dedication. Joining ARUW was the single best decision of my undergraduate career.
ARUW was never smooth sailing. There was a lot of room for improvement and I meant it. You see, there are many challenges which come from being the first team in North America. On the bright side, there were many challenges to navigate and overcome together. The team grew with the individuals and so did the robots.
So you might ask me, “What kept you on the team? Why is ARUW so meaningful to you, Frank?”
ARUW has genuine inclusivity — breaking the stereotypes that only engineers can and should build robots. At first, I was surprised to see students from political science, public health, biology to name a few. I was inspired to realize that this was the norm in the club. All the students had something to bring. All the students had value and were cherished.
The members of ARUW have genuine care for each other — give back by giving back. The saying goes that it takes a village to raise a child. Well, it takes a whole University of raise a robotics team. I was inspired to see how much the team members at ARUW cared about each on and off campus. Additionally, the graduated leadership who came before me still came back to offer support and mentorship towards the younger members of the team. I go back and offer support and mentorship towards the current members of the team. Future leaders will go back and care for the future members of the team.
Building People, Building Robots
The most meaningful thing to me at ARUW is the people on the team. Even though there were challenges, we overcame them together as a team. Even though there were frustrations, we faced them head on. It’s all about the growth — when you build robots, you build people and when you build people, you build robots.
Our people grow with our robots, and our robots grow with our people. I remember when I first joined, that there was quite a bit of disrespectful murmuring about the state of our robots from members of other engineering teams. Nonetheless, what others said about our robots did not matter. We were focused on the growth.
Competing at Robomaster is no easy feat, especially against other world-class engineering teams. Every year, we went and came back more experienced and more driven. How far we progressed simply reflected where the team was at.
On June 21, the Advanced Robotics team at the University of Washington conquered the Virginia Tech RoboGrinders to secure victory as the 2021 North American Robomaster Champions.
5 years in the making, ARUW brings home a championship. What’s more impressive is that ARUW brought home this championship in the midst of a global pandemic. While other engineering teams at UW can boast that they a top N team, only ARUW and ARUW alone are North American Champions.
Seeing all the ARUW members put their full hearts into the competition fills my alumni heart with pride. I remember recruiting these members their freshmen year. I remember mentoring and giving them feedback in the lab. Seeing how much they’ve grown, seeing them compete at such a high level, makes me cry.
This championship means so much to the team, so much to the alumni, so much to everyone who’s been supporting the team. ARUW, you’ve made us all proud.
Normally, Robomaster is an international competition. Due to COVID, this year, the competition was split between China and North America. North America today, internationals tomorrow! There’s so much ahead of you all!
I remember when I met the current team captain of ARUW when he was a freshman. He walked up to me at the recruiting table and said to me, “Wow! ARUW? This is everything I’ve been looking for!” My friend, I hope it has been everything and more.