Team 702 Bagel Bytes — From LA to Houston

CCHS Robotics Team 702 at FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, Texas from April 19-22. (Photos courtesy of Team 702)

Jonathan Kim, Vice President

It’s a Wednesday evening in March. The sun begins to set over the football field, the hallway lights begin to flick on, and the campus is empty — well, almost. Tucked away in Room 91 near the campus garden, a tight-knit, dedicated group of students just finished their dinner together on campus but don’t plan on leaving any time soon. In this room from 1:30 and set to stay for the next three hours until 9, these students have been working diligently in this room — cutting wood with power tools, welding together metal pieces, coding on computers, and more — multiple times a week over the past two months with one common goal; to create a functional industrial-sized competition robot. 

The CCHS robotics team has been one of the more sneakily popular activities and clubs on campus with up to 84 members this past season and an array of awards to boast about since its establishment in 2001. The team added to their impressive display of recognition after wrapping up a successful 2022-2023 school year last month having qualified for and competed in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, Texas from April 19-22. Team 702 last qualified for the World Championships in 2019, making it a first-time experience for all students involved.

“Going to Worlds was really cool and surreal being with the 600 other teams there,” said Captain Zachary Rosenberg, who has been instrumental in managing the entire team’s operations this past year.

Team 702 is divided into seven major subteams: manufacturing, design and assembly, programming, CAD (computer aided design), business, strategy or scouting, and safety. Each of the 84 members in the club can join any of them in their collective efforts to create a robot from when the season begins in January until competition days in March and April, which began on March 16 this year with the LA Regionals. 

As it does every year, the season began with the annual kickoff event on January 7, which takes place on the first Saturday of January and details the competition’s main rules and regulations and most importantly, the main objectives the robot must accomplish which differs every year. This year, Team 702 was mainly tasked with creating a robot that could lift game pieces — cones and cubes — into a grid area to score points. 

With the hundreds of hours required to develop a quality robot, the long hours into the night throughout the build season from January to March are unavoidable for many of the members. However, these hours of hard work spent together — through both the good and the bad — have also led to a strong sense of community and friendship among the team.

“We go through a lot of struggle with each other, but I think it really brings us all together,” said Systems Engineer Adam Kim, who is one of three seniors along with Rosenberg that have been involved with the team since freshman year and have together spent over 2000 hours on robotics over their four years. 

And it is these long hours and strong sense of camaraderie built that have made for many emotional moments as well. Kim recalls some of the members crying after the team won LA Regionals in March and thus qualified for the World Championship in Houston.

However, the club’s leadership have also strove to keep the time commitment towards robotics as flexible as possible. By respecting students’ schedules and not setting a specific demand for hours, they hope that members don’t feel overwhelmed and pressured to meet unrealistic expectations. Ultimately, their goal is to create a positive environment for students regardless of prior experience to develop their interest in STEM and this sport, as robotics is one of the few hands-on and STEM opportunities available on campus. 

And this unique STEM experience and ability to be involved in the global robotics community is what draws so many students into this ever growing sport such as sophomore Erika Kusano. She is set to be the head of the mechanics department next season after her many hours spent into the team, which includes many of the positive experiences she made this past year including attending her first competition at LA Regionals.

“It was an amazing experience from not just competing, but also interacting with other teams and companies and making connections,” said Kusano regarding her experience at LA Regionals.

However, while the 2023 season may have officially come to an end, the work and impact Team 702 have and will continue to make will not stop. Through having a number of sponsors and donations, the team is able to compete successfully during the season and also focus on separate build challenges with companies like NASA JPL outside of the 2-3 month season. Additionally, they have made a broader impact in the community as the team has conducted science fair demonstrations at every CCUSD elementary school and worked on projects with local businesses such as the Aquarium of the Pacific. 

While Rosenberg and Kim will no longer be involved in the team after this year, their faith is high in incoming captain and junior Ethan Cole to lead the team, who is looking forward to accomplishing much in the preseason from participating in more separate challenges or building another robot and continuing to foster a strong interest in robotics among the community.

“I am looking forward to ultimately just building a bigger community with our schools around us — the elementary schools and middle school — and even within our club and creating friends and relationships there,” Cole said. 

And the question everyone is wondering — why are they nicknamed the “Bagel Bytes?”

“So our first sponsor way back in 2001 when we started was Noah’s Bagels, and so we named the team and mascot after that,” Rosenberg said smiling. “Now we are sponsored by Pop’s Bagels so we still have a bagel sponsor.”

The name has also become a running joke among the club as bagels are often available as a team snack during the meetings, a reminder of the strong sense of camaraderie that keeps Culver City’s Team 702 together.