Among several organizations which bring pride to Ohio Northern, Polar Robotics has stood out as especially promising and well-accomplished, if underappreciated by the student body at large. Polar Robotics designs, builds, and programs robots which mimic the play of American Football, to compete in competitions of the Robotic Football Student Association. Despite facing challenges in recent years and undergoing significant internal change, Polar Robotics’ performance for the 2021-2022 competition cycle was exceptional. In this exclusive, the leadership of Polar Robotics share insights on the future of the club, and what makes the group so successful.
The 2021-2022 academic year saw a massive overhaul in Polar Robotics. Among other obstacles facing the group, an unusually large amount of maintenance needed to be done to the robots–four required heavy refurbishment, and six had to be rebuilt entirely, requiring attention to be paid to 10 of the 11 total robots. Among the broken robots were four of the six linemen, one of the two receivers, as well as the center and the quarterback. This created a massive demand for the Polar Robotics team–as treasurer Aaron Smith told me, “there’s always work to do.”
Addressing these necessities relied, in part, on sheer manpower and time commitment. Smith’s end of year report cites “increas[ing] member engagement and retention” as a primary goal for the 2021-2022 season. Last year, Polar Robotics had 40 members, with a very high retention throughout the year’s meetings. According to their end of year report, 15 training events, 111 team meetings/work sessions, and 20 practice sessions were held throughout the season.
During this season, the internal structure of Polar Robotics was also overhauled, placing an increased emphasis on engagement between new members and club veterans. George Rak, president of Polar Robotics, says that this is a vital improvement: in previous years, according to him, “It was kinda hard to get involved if you were a freshman.” He believes that the new model remedies this, where more individual attention is given to new members. He also cited as a concern the possibility of overburdening new members, where increased individual attention prevents this from happening.
This level of commitment and preparedness paid off for Polar Robotics, manifesting multiple big wins last season. The team scored first place in the Center Reliability Test, second place in the Speed Test, and third place overall, as well as earning a $250 cash award at the competition at Notre Dame College.
These 2021-2022 season accomplishments are important, because they inform the future of the club. Polar Robotics is now more well equipped than it was at the beginning of last season, and they intend to continue team improvement.
In an echo of the 2021 season, light maintenance will be performed on all 11 of the robots, with only one being completely rebuilt this year. This is a substantial relief compared to last year’s demand. In addition, two more linemen will be constructed in an effort to expand the Polar Robotics team. An even bigger opportunity has also presented itself to the Polar Robotics team: Ohio Northern will be hosting the 2023 competition.
Both past and future, the state of Polar Robotics relies on the dedication of its members. This level of commitment, hard work, and perseverance stems from a strong camaraderie among the Polar Robotics team. Movie nights and game nights are a strong team bonding experience, according to president Rak. He also thinks the Polar Robotics team has cultivated an engaging environment, where some non-engineering students join simply because it’s fun. Coach Alex Casada concurs, saying “I enjoy my role…It is a lot of fun.”
Student bond is a staple of Ohio Northern, and Polar Robotics seems to be perfect evidence of its value; the cooperation and dedication of a communal team overcame challenges and approached new opportunities. Given the impressive results, it’s worthwhile for other campus organizations to consider adopting the same methods.