Laura Fellows
Media Advisor

Gilbert Christian’s robotics teams - winning and having fun with STEM

January 31, 2022 by Laura Fellows, Gilbert Christian High School

First qualification match of the AZ Turquoise Qualifier. The two GCHS Robotics' teams collide: Carbo Knights, 19728, and their alliance go up against Knights of the Lab Table, 8081, and their alliance.

Laura Fellows is the media advisor for Gilbert Christian's Student SID program that contributes content on behalf of the school to

I had the chance to attend my first robotics tournament, the AZ Turquoise Qualifier, on January 29th at Valley Christian High School on behalf of our school’s two teams at Gilbert Christian High School, Knights of the Lab Table, 8081, and Carbo Knights, 19728. I was quite impressed with the team members coached by Mrs. Anna Field along with assistant coach and GCHS alumni Brian Burkhart and design mentor volunteers Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Lason. The robotics team members were always polite, upbeat, and encouraging with one another and other teams that were in attendance. Each robotics team was in the stand for the qualification matches cheering for each other’s teams. It is clear by the way the students interacted with each other that they clearly see that their most valuable resource is each other along with their coaches and mentors. The coaches and mentors were hands on helping students and providing coaching and design tips. You could tell the students look to them for solid advice and mentoring when stuck on a particular programming robotic issue.

The energy of all sixteen teams participating was electric. It was a wonderful experience that involved many STEM students throughout Arizona and allowed them to showcase their talent and expertise in the field of robotics. The students were laser focused on their own robots but also on each competitor’s robots too. The students are constantly evaluating and assessing each team’s strengths and weaknesses. What works? What does not work? How can they, as a team, learn and grow in this area? If they make it to the top four, which team do they invite to compete alongside them to ensure success along the way? Robotics is so much more than the mere layman can understand all on his/her own. The STEM ETHOS is “Honor and respect all teams at all times,” and “all honor and glory goes to God, the Creator of Science, math, engineering, and technology” of which these students are passionate about and excel at.

Before they even make it here, students on a robotics team put a lot of time and effort into building an industrial size robot that is able to play a game on a difficult playing field in an alliance with other teams. This requires students to step into different areas based on his/her own strengths and weaknesses as a programmer, builder, outreach representative, driver, and/or 3D designer.

With 16 teams competing at this qualifier, there were 20 qualification matches. Two teams are randomly paired to work alongside each other (an alliance) on the playing field through each qualifying match. Two of our own, Knights of the Lab Table, 8081, and Carbo Knights, 19728, were further challenged to compete against one another in the first qualification round.  

The team members heavily rely on everyone to fulfill their position and complete their jobs that will, hopefully, lead to success on game day. When they arrive, they set up their team tent, unpack all their belongings needed to ensure success throughout the day: computers, robots, and tools. All positions on each team come together to tweak their own robots, programming, practicing in the practice pit, and tightening nuts and bolts in order to get ready for the qualification matches. In between qualifications, it all happens again to try and ensure the robot will have a peak performance and/or to try and correct any issues that may have arisen during a match. The students are learning and practicing problem-solving and critical thinking skills throughout this whole process.

The robots are expected to navigate a playing field with obstacles, move and plant different objects in different positions and areas, along with planting seven ducks through use of the robot’s carousel, and then to park the robot in a specified space. Some activities are required to occur autonomously and others by a driver with a remote controller. The team that accomplishes these tasks successfully within a timed field event gets awarded the most points. Keep in mind, as previously mentioned, they are randomly paired in an alliance with another team. Performance is not just about your own robot but also the alliance’s team robot too. In addition, robotics also includes an interview process where judges speak with the team members to ascertain an engineering portfolio which contains information on what they have done, how they navigate obstacles and generally handle setbacks and successes along the way, and where they perform service outreach within their community.

While all this is going on, the students also try to have fun. I witnessed some joking, and fun camaraderie as the students laughed, danced, and tried to make light of the ins and outs that go along with technology to relieve any tension from a poor performance. The goal here is not just to win, but to also have fun.

At the end of the day, the Knights of the Lab Table, 8081, were ranked 9 out of 16 and the Carbo Knights 19728, were ranked 14 out of 16. The Carbo Knights, 19728, earned the Connect Award, which is given to the team that most connects with their local STEM community. This award clinched a berth for them to participate in the Arizona State Tournament in February, 2022. It should be noted that this is the debut year for the Carbo Knights, 19728, team. There were so many students at Gilbert Christian wanting to be part of robotics so Mrs. Field opened the door to set-up a second team. 

The Knights of the Lab Table clinched their berth to the AZ State Championship at a competition which occurred at the beginning of the school year and has also received many awards throughout this robotics’ season.

For more information on this particular tournament, please visit

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GCHS robotics team members in the stands ready to cheer their teams on to success!