The American School in SwitzerlandThe American School in Switzerland
The Art of Robotics

In the article below, Mariaurora Rosso ’24—a member of the all-female TASIS robotics team that will be representing Switzerland at the FIRST LEGO League CARGO CONNECT World Festival in the United States in April—offers her perspective on the team’s accomplishments and discusses why she and her teammates are drawn to the cutting-edge field of robotics.

What is Robotics? 

The word robotics derives from the word robot, which finds its roots in the Czech word robota, meaning forced labor. So, is robotics the sub-branch of computer science that investigates forced labor? Not quite. According to Diana Xiao, a new member of the TASIS Tigers 1 robotics team this year, robotics is a “branch of engineering and computer science that involves robot designing, constructing, and operating. Its goal is to design robots that can perform certain tasks.” Conventionally these tasks are used to aid humans by either performing jobs that we cannot do or by simplifying our lives. 

As a group, however, we like to think that robotics is the art of life. Like any art, robotics is an expression of our being; in this case, we could even suggest that it is an extension of our being. When we look at a painting, we see beauty; we see all of the emotions and hours the artist put into their work of art. We are stunned by its presence and drawn in by its past. Ms. Bloodworth, our coach, looks at a robot and thinks: “Wow. That’s beautiful.” Like the painting, robots also have a breathtaking story to tell. For Diana, art “includes any expressions or [application] of human creative skill and imagination.” 

Coding and engineering are the expressions of life in its purest form. We could even go so far to say that robotics begets a new species, a new kind of human. Well, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but we can all agree that robotics brings things to life. Consequently, I think we can put robots on the next branch of the tree of life. Maddy, a member of the team since 2017, and Diana summarize robotics as imagination and potentia, respectively. Computer science in general is developing very quickly, and the possibilities are infinite. 

As a society, I think it is very important for us to recognize that machines are a part of our extended family. Once we understand this, we can comfortably move toward an automated future where humans and robots coexist. I asked my teammates and Ms. Bloodworth what they thought the future of robotics could look like, and we all agreed that robots will continue to evolve and walk along the path humans set them on. We also came to the conclusion that although humans will do most of the teaching and guiding, we can learn a lot from machines as well.

Lego League Switzerland, School Robotics Competition

TASIS Tigers 1 in action at the Cantonal Institute of Economics and Commerce in Bellinzona on February 5.
Photo taken by Associazione Robo-Si.

Varsity Robotics at TASIS

This year’s TASIS Varsity Robotics team has met after school every Tuesday from October 5, 2021, through February 1, 2022. The group is divided into two teams, TASIS Tigers 1 and TASIS Tigers 2, both of which are coached by Ms. Amy Bloodworth. Ms. Bloodworth started the program four years ago and has since developed the after-school program and begun teaching coding in the Middle School. She has also won the coaches award. 

Each year, Ms. Bloodworth prepares us students to compete at the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge in Ticino. The FLL is a worldwide competition with the objective of inviting students from ages 4–16 to develop their engineering and coding skills by solving real-life global issues. Each year the competition has a different theme; this year the theme is Cargo Connect. Along with building and coding a lego robot, the participants must address a global problem that relates to the theme of that specific year and must deliver a presentation that explains a solution to their problem. At the competition, the teams are judged on Robot Design, Robot Race, Teamwork, and the Presentation. The judging of Robot Design evaluates the complexity of the code and how the robot responds to the code. 

Serafina Ballerini ’26, Olivia Su Canga ’26, Madalena De Sousa Lopes E Costa Felix ’26, Diana Xiao ’26, and I make up the TASIS Tigers 1. Batian Hegelund ’26, Ishaan Patel ’29, Alken Sarsenov ’26, and Ilia Soloschenko ’28 compose the TASIS Tigers 2. Thanks to our perseverance and Ms. Bloodworth’s guidance, we achieved wonderful results at the 2022 FLL Challenge in Ticino on February 5. The TASIS Tigers 1 placed third while the TASIS Tigers 2 placed fourth and won the Teamwork category. 

Usually, the after-school program ends after the competition. This year, however, the TASIS Tigers 1 have earned the opportunity to represent Switzerland at the 2022 FIRST LEGO League CARGO CONNECT World Festival in Houston on April 20–23!

TASIS Tigers 1 Headed to World Festival

Our team has been working together for about four years. Our journey began in 2019 as the Engineers, and since then—now as the TASIS Tigers 1—we have developed our coding and robot-building skills. If you would like to get to know the team better, take a look at the video above.

Not only is the competition in Houston an opportunity to learn more about robotics, but we also get to represent Switzerland, our country and our home. At times we still catch ourselves thinking it is nothing more than a beautiful dream. We are especially excited about representing one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. The championship will give us the opportunity to learn new things and, above all else, present a chance to meet people who love robotics just as much as we do. 

“At times we still catch ourselves thinking it is
nothing more than a beautiful dream.”

The FLL has helped spark our ambitions and imagination. The members of our TASIS Tigers 1 team find robotics interesting because we see robots and coding as a chance to improve and help humanity. Maddy has always looked up to the sky and seen the stars—now she looks up to the sky and the stars look at her. As you can imagine, it is a very intense staring contest. Her dream is to work for NASA and launch rocket ships and rovers into deep space. Olivia, fascinated by the little human that lives in our phones, would like to bring Siri to life. Can you imagine? “Hey, Siri,” and instead of only hearing Siri’s voice, you could also see her expression as she tells you, “Sorry, I did not quite catch that. Here’s what I found on the web” as a plethora of useless links and websites pop up around her head. Serafina, inspired by her father, finds comfort and satisfaction in piecing together the various bits of robots. I, for one, would never want to play Jenga with her because she would definitely end up building a tower that defies gravity. For all you bookworms in the audience, you are going to love this: if Diana could code anything in the world, she would put together a code that would continue your favorite stories even after they ended. If I could build or code anything, I would build something which would allow us to travel in between dimensions. One minute you are nothing more than a dot (1D), and the next you are some incredible 5D shape that possesses unimaginable properties. Robotics really is a whole new world, and the FLL is our ride on Aladin’s carpet of wonders.

Journalist Giorgia Cimma Sommaruga interviewed Coach Bloodworth and the five members of TASIS Tigers 1 for a feature article that appeared in the Sunday issue of Corriere del Ticino on March 27. See the article.

Humans and Robotics

Machines are reliable (most of the time): you program them and they follow a code. I like to think that despite how unpredictable and crazy humans are, we too follow a path that was programmed by some insane scientist. Our programmed fates make our lives worth something. During the Robot Race, our robot WALL-E has two and a half minutes on the mat, and he has to complete as many tasks as possible before the time runs out. At the competition, we have three trials to score as many points as possible. The run with the most points is the one that counts. So, I ask myself, what is life if not a series of tasks and trials? Luckily, as humans, we have more than two minutes and 30 seconds to fulfill all of the tasks, but we cannot act like our time on Earth is unlimited. Because we are not immortal, as a society we have to strive to achieve the highest possible score if we want to truly understand what being alive means. 

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FIRST Robotics Championship in Houston

Coach Amy Bloodworth and the inspiring all-female team of Mariaurora Rosso ’24, Maddy Costa Felix ’26, Serafina Ballerini ’26, Olivia Canga ’26, and Diana Xiao ’26 were one of just 108 teams in the world to compete at the 2022 FIRST Championship World Festival in Houston, Texas, over the course of April 20–23. Watch them discuss this journey of a lifetime.

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