The 2nd Annual Seattle World School Supplies Drive

by Melissa Hertel, a Bethany member and SWS Robotics Club Supporter

Over the past few years, in response to the global migration crisis, Bethany’s Refugee Ministry Team has been building a relationship with the Seattle World School (SWS). As part of that, Zach and I have been volunteering with the Robotics Club.

Each year, the team builds a robot to compete in the First Robotics Competition “the ultimate sport for the mind.” The season starts in January with the Big Reveal where all the teams meet to hear about that year’s challenge and Gracious Professionalism – where each team tries to win and help every other team by sharing open source software and design ideas. Then there is a six-week building period in which each team builds and programs an industrial size robot (2 to 3 ft square). The drive platform for all the robots is the same, but each team builds arms, climbers, ramps or other features onto the platform to do as many functions as possible to earn points in the competition.

On the day of competition, 30 to 40 teams meet. Teams that haven’t quite gotten everything working get help from more experienced teams. Then the competition begins. The atmosphere is state basketball championship meets NASA shuttle launch – everyone is excited, nervous and busy fixing things that broke during practice. Then the games begin:

Each randomly assembled three-team alliance has three ways to earn points: 

  • Control the Switches and the Scale by loading more power cubes than the opponent
  • Fill the Vault to earn “Power Ups” by delivering power cubes to a human team member
  • Climb the Scale

Each match begins with a 15-second autonomous period in which Robots operate only pre-programmed instructions. During remaining 2 minutes and 15 seconds of each match, the Robots are controlled by student drivers. This isn’t BattleBots – teams can’t intentionally damage or block the opponent. Over two days, the teams participate in 70 qualification rounds to earn points and see what other teams’ strengths are. At the end of the qualifications, the top 8 teams invite other teams to create final 3-team alliances to play in a double-elimination tournament.

In our first competition, our team won the Judge’s Award – for overcoming adversity and teamwork. In our second competition, we were invited to join one of the final 8 teams. Our students were thrilled. 

We have a preview of next year’s game – we will be building a robot for operation on a planet in deep space that is as mysterious as it is inhospitable. It is a lifeless planet with an atmosphere that is toxic with an ever-changing landscape is dangerous and unpredictable. In January, we will learn more about the mission and the objectives – stay tuned!

If you want to know more about getting involved with SWS, please contact Misty Grieger ( or Melissa Hertel (


Robotics Supplies Drive

1-3 laptop computers, with Windows, to teach students to program the robot or develop designs with AutoCAD. Used laptops could be re-purposed – they just need to have a keyboard, mouse and USB/ethernet ports.

Assist with team t-shirts.

Help with transportation to competitions in March.

Back-t0-School Supplies

1000 Wide Rule Composition Notebooks (black marble cover only)

1000 #2 pencils (no mechanical pencils, please)

300 yellow chisel tip highlighters