Dublin High School Senior Derick Louie Leads Gael Force Robotics to the World Stage
DUBLIN, CA–Dublin High School senior Derick Louie has successfully led the 5327C Senior Team to win numerous accolades in various tournaments in the 2016-2017 school year — a milestone achievement for Gael Force Robotics. This year, Derick is the Vice President of Gael Force Robotics; he joined the club in his freshman year in 2013, and captained his first team in 2015. Among his many achievements, Derick and his team have qualified for the World Championships for the past 3 years, and also received the following awards:
- 1x Design Award – Dougherty Valley High School VEX Robotics Tournament
- 1x Excellence Award – California HS VRC State Championship
- 1x Design Award – Bellarmine Bay Area VEX Robotics Tournament
- 1x Think Award – Dougherty Valley High School VEX Robotics Tournament
- 2x Tournament Champions – Dougherty Valley High School VEX Robotics Tournament, Google VEX Starstruck Tournament
- 1x Build Award – Tracy Triangle VEX Robotics Tournament
Here, Derick shares more about how his passion for robotics is leading him to pursue mechanical engineering at the college level, and reflects on everything he has learned along the way.
Neha Harpanhalli: Can you describe what VEX Robotics is, for those not familiar with it?
Derick Louie: “VEX is an international robotics competition comprised of over 10,000 teams from 32 countries. Teams are tasked with designing and building robots to play a new game every year; in this year’s game, “Starstruck”, robots score points by throwing stars and cubes over to the opponent’s side of the field in alliances made of two teams each. Additionally, there are judged awards that are given for excelling in areas such as the design process and documentation.
Harpanhalli: What is it about Robotics that appeals to you the most? When did you first start competing?
Louie: “Robotics appeals to me because it’s a hands-on activity that encourages you to apply what you learn in school to the real world. It allows you to combine concepts from classes with practical skills that you gain over time, and it is extremely rewarding to see the work that you put in pay off at competitions. I started competing in robotics during 5th grade, when I was looking to try something new and spend my time doing something productive. Since then, I’ve participated in robotics competitions for a total of 7 years.”
Harpanhalli: What prompted you to join the Gael Force Robotics club? What kinds of projects have you worked on with this team? Approximately how long does it take you to prepare for a tournament?
Louie: “I joined the robotics club looking to continue competing in robotics and challenge myself. I had already been competing in First Lego League, a robotics program for middle schoolers, and saw Gael Force Robotics as a way to continue my involvement. I enjoyed the challenges and problem solving that came with robotics, and wanted to bring it to the next level as I entered high school.
“Preparing for tournaments is no easy task, and our team is constantly working against the clock to get to where we need to be. We begin brainstorming and prototyping for our robots at the beginning of summer, and typically have our first robot done by late October. From there, we’re always reevaluating and rebuilding our robots in preparation for the next tournament. Our robot builds can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to complete, and we pour hundreds of hours into building, fine-tuning, and practicing over the course of a year.”
Harpanhalli: Given your involvement in these competitions for the past seven years, what is it that you have learned from participating, whether you are successful in them or not?
Louie: “Throughout my past seven years in robotics, one of the most important things that I have learned is to be willing to make changes. We rarely ever go to two competitions with the same robot; as soon as we return, we analyze our strengths and weaknesses, and begin to make improvements regardless of whether or not we were successful at the competition. We recognize that being successful at one tournament does not mean that we will be able to replicate that success at the next one if we do not continue to try to improve.”
Harpanhalli: Which of your accomplishments with the Robotics team here at DHS would you say you’re most proud of?
Louie: “The accomplishment that I’m the most proud of…isn’t a specific award or tournament that we’ve won, but rather the image and reputation that we have built for our club. Gael Force Robotics has become a clearly recognizable team name throughout the state, and even throughout the world: we’ve had teams reach out to us at the world championship noting us for the presence we’ve built in the VEX community by posting robot reveals, building relationships with teams and helping out others.”
Harpanhalli: Did you have any mentors who guided or influenced you along the way?
Louie: “Although our club is completely student-run, our advisors and teachers have been a crucial part of our success. Ms. Eugene Chou, our former advisor, helped build the foundation of the club and has taught many of our members in various engineering classes, where we learn skills such as CAD [Computer Aided Design], the design process, and much more. From guidance in these classes, we’re able to apply these skills to our teams and obtain success. Our current advisors, Mr. Adam Brown and Mr. Jeff Taylor have been vital to our club by dedicating their time and providing supervision after school as well as helping with and giving input on the organization and structure of our club.”
Harpanhalli: What do you think a student interested in Robotics should keep in mind before deciding to join the DHS Gael Force Robotics club?
Louie: “Time commitment is one of the most important factors to consider before joining robotics. Teams regularly spend upwards of 10 hours a week working on their robots and documentation in preparation for their next competition, and it can be incredibly difficult for students to participate in robotics while still spending an adequate amount of time on their schoolwork and other activities.”
Harpanhalli: What do you consider to be the most rewarding aspect of Robotics?
Louie: “One of my favorite parts of robotics is being able to see your work pay off at competitions. Teams spend months preparing their robots, and seeing the improvements that you’ve made…is extremely rewarding. Additionally, robotics allows you to meet people that you never would have met. There is an extremely supportive community built around VEX, and it’s wonderful to get to know people not only from across the country, but across the world. I’ve met students from China, Singapore, New Zealand, UK, and other countries at the world championship, and VEX is truly a pathway for students to build connections wherever they go.”
Harpanhalli: What are your future plans with Robotics?
Louie: “After high school, I plan on studying to become a Mechanical Engineer. I believe that many of the skills that I’ve gained through participating in robotics will help me become much more successful in this field and prepare me for the real world.”