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Gibson Ek Robotics Club Dives Into Underwater Robot Competition

Gibson Ek Robotics Club Dives Into Underwater Robot Competition

By Nica Rondinelli 
Communications Intern 

The Gibson Ek High School Robotics Team is building an underwater robot for the RoboSub 2024 competition, and will be the only students from Washington state contending this year. They will compete with 52 other teams from around the world this August in California. While the contest is open to both high school and college teams, Gibson Ek is one of only four high schools in the running. 

According to the RoboSub website, "the international competition invites participants to tackle simplified versions of challenges facing the underwater maritime industry. These challenges may include oceanographic exploration and mapping, detection and manipulation of objects, and pipeline identification and tracking.” Students will design, build and test their own Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), then compete with other teams. 

“I’ve always loved robotics and engineering. When I heard that the club was starting up again, I was really excited and couldn't wait to join,” says Hayden Hirsch, the team captain, a junior who joined the robotics team last year when it restarted after the pandemic.  

Previously, Hirsch focused on designing, building, and iterating robotic arms. Now, with a larger team and a shift to submersibles, Hirsch's role has expanded. "I've been doing a lot more things," Hirsch explains, "including working with sensors, assisting with coding, planning for competitions, and ensuring the team's organization and communication. 

“I love the work we do as a team. There's something really amazing about seeing a new challenge and having to work so hard to handle it. There’s always something that will come up, there are always problems to solve, there’s always the small feeling of ‘can we even do this?’ There’s something amazing about this group of people, all of us having never done submersible robotics, just doing it anyway,” Hirsch says. 

Gibson Ek students work on robosub

At top, members of the Gibson Ek robotics team pause for a group photo. Immediately above, two students on the team work on the robosub.


Last year, the top prize for the contest's Autonomy Challenge award was $6,500, won by the National University of Singapore. The top prize for Design Documentation went to the Ohio State University, earning them $800, and other teams won Special Awards valued at $500 each.  

“The Gibson Ek Robotics team originated with Julia Bamba and Dan Rosenstein coming together and looking to get the club off the ground to coincide with the opening of the school,” says Andy McDonald, one of the club advisers.  Running the club with Rosenstein since 2016, McDonald says his favorite part is working with inspired students and coaches who share the same vision of student learning. 

“We are new to the underwater competition this year, but I feel that it is pushing us to consider robotics in a new way and stretch our understanding of the feasibility of it all,” he says. “Anyone can be a part of the team whether you think you like robotics or not. We need designers, drafters, coders, organizers, artists, etc. Through all of this, we have a great team.” 

The Gibson Ek Robotics Team members are fundraising to help support their trip to California. They’re working to raise $5,000. Anyone interested in helping may consider donating online, selecting Gibson Ek as the school, “TL - ASB Donation” as the item, and specifying in the memo that the donation is for the Gibson Ek Robotics Team.  

Nica Rondinelli is an intern working with the district Communications Department this year. Rondinelli is a 101 (ninth grader) at Gibson Ek High School, which includes internships as a key component of student learning.