In the final days of classes, most students focus their energy on preparing for finals week. First-year student Diana Dalski was no exception, but she also had her sights set on the Vex World Robotics Championship.
Dalski is part of the Michigan State University (MSU) Vex Robotics Team, a student group that works within the College of Engineering to create robots the team takes to competitions. After competing against several other schools within the state in late February, the team performed well enough to be selected to attend the World Robotics Championship taking place the last week of April.
“We found out that we had qualified, but we realized it was the week before finals,” said Dalski. “As a team we sat down and decided ‘we’ve worked so hard; let’s go to Worlds.’”
According to Dalski, right after the decision to compete was made, the team went to work building the robots for the competition every day from spring break until the championship.
“It was hardcore,” said Dalski. “The night before the competition, our programmer didn’t even sleep because he wanted everything to go perfectly.”
Dalski’s responsibilities included documenting and strategizing for the team. She had to thoroughly illustrate diagrams of the robots being built and keep records of the trials and errors of the building process. She also had to help develop on-the-spot strategy during the event in order to stay ahead of the more than 80 universities MSU was competing against at the world level. This required a lot of quick thinking and attention to detail, but this is nothing new for Dalski.
While taking a full course load and devoting her spare time to the robotics team, Dalski also works as a web developer intern for the RHS Information Services (IS) department. Dalski explained her work includes “revamping” websites and “fixing things without breaking anything else.” She also says part of her job is learning new coding for web development, and she finds this aspect of her job to be “a lot of fun and a great challenge.”
Dalski said the most important thing she has learned from her position with RHS is how to communicate effectively with her peers. Communication, she explained, is a fundamental skill she would not be able to do her job without.
Information Technologist Matthew Edgley supervises Dalski along with the other IS web developer student interns. According to Edgley, his students learn a lot of life skills within the job, some of which he hopes helped to prepare her for the robotics competition.
“They learn [about] being flexible, adapting to changing conditions, and being able to analyze a problem and work through it,” said Edgley. “You don’t get to just wear one hat; you have to be constantly flexible and changing in what you do . . . Those types of skills are things that she will be able to apply to anything that she runs into in life.”
Dalski and the rest of her team not only completed the event with a winning record, but they also brought home the Amaze Award. This award is given to a team whose robot performed well and had unique capabilities, but perhaps most importantly, it is awarded based on team professionalism. For Dalski, this was one of the most exciting parts of the competition.
“It was definitely an awesome experience,” said Dalski. “It was the ultimate team-bonding experience when we were surprised with that award.”
Making it to the world robotics championship was an incredible feat, but this is only the beginning for Dalski. As a sophomore this fall, she will become the vice president for the Robotics Club and hopes to bring the team to Worlds for the second year in a row.
Back: Drew Kim, Paul Schulte, Matthew Watson, Bob Watson
Middle: Skijlar Howerzyl, Dave Waltz, Lauren McIntyre, Jacob Swaneck, Jake Aprilliano
Front: Caitlin Colsia, Diana Dalski, Declan Liu, Kati Pilant
Pictured in header image, left to right: Paul Schulte, Kent Bazman, Diana Dalski, Lauren McIntyre, Jake Aprilliano