ACME Robotics prepares for virtual competition season |

ACME Robotics prepares for virtual competition season

After a competition season cut short earlier this year by the pandemic, ACME Robotics, a team of 14 Nevada County high school students, has adapted to collaborating virtually as they build this season’s robot.

In February, the team was successful at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) northern California regional event, qualifying for the organization’s championship which was to be held in April. This event was ultimately canceled.

This season, the team is made up of students from Nevada Union High School, Ghidotti Early College High School, and Forest Charter School. Their goal is to build a robot which will be successful in a series of tasks, announced by FIRST at the beginning each season.

Team member Kiana Reedy-Schneider, a student at Nevada Union, said the team expects to be ready to participate in this competition season by the end of December. A large portion of their process, she said, is consumed by design and digital modeling. This year especially, as they limit their in-person interactions due to the pandemic, they want to make sure the design will work before involving physical materials.

“This year, it’s going to take a lot more time to put it all together, I think, because we can’t all meet in one spot and just work on it,” said team member Julia Barbieri, a student at Ghidotti. “We’d all have to take home certain parts of it, build that, and then swap stuff and put it all together.”

Forest Charter student and team member Emma Sheffo said that, due to this limitation, scheduling has been more important than ever for the team. She said the team, divided into sub-teams for hardware, software, and business, keeps close track of their tasks through a schedule-sharing program in order to stay on track while doing distanced work.


Sheffo shared about the value she has found in the team, saying, “It’s been a really good experience, because now when I’m in those hard math classes (in school), I sort of know what’s going on and how it’s applicable to the real world.”

The group had previously formed two robotics teams, ACME and ARES. They have consolidated into this one, ACME, after determining that doing so would make team organization, funding, and recruitment easier, especially amid the pandemic.

“Last year, both of the teams were super successful in our tournaments, so it’s going to be so different to (compete) virtually, but we’re feeling really hopeful and excited,” said team member Etta Stewart, a student at Ghidotti.

Michael Lewis, one of the team’s mentors, emphasized that the team is largely independent, with mentors such as himself largely there to “just guide along and provide adult supervision.”

This independence, he said, results in the members of the team growing in a variety of areas beyond robotics. “We’re interested in a lot of different things, from business development to marketing and outreach, donor relations, writing,” he said. “There’s a lot of technical writing that they do … so really it’s a cross-discipline team.”

According to Lewis, 220 teams compete against one another in local competitions to determine the 52 which will make it to the northern California regional competition, as both ACME and ARES did earlier this year, a feat the team feels even prouder of due to its circumstances.

Reedy-Schneider said being a “rural town” team, and one which does its own independent fundraising as opposed to operating through a school program, was rare at the regional tournament. “It’s what makes us really different, and what makes it really cool that we’re still a success.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer for The Union. She can be reached at

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