Parents Association & Parents Council
The Durham Academy Parents Association supports the school's academic, social, fine arts and athletic objectives. Parents Association encourages volunteerism, raises and disperses funds, promotes communication and cooperation, and provides input to the school on issues of concern and interest to parents. All Durham Academy parents are members of the Parents Association.
The Durham Academy Parents Council is the governing board of the Parents Association. This group comprises members of an executive committee; division representatives; members of schoolwide committees on matters such as diversity, wellness and athletics; and parents who organize both community-building and fundraising events. See a list of the parents who serve on Parents Council.
Parents Bulletin Board
Durham Academy Upper School’s robotics team has been in existence for a mere two years. Yet in that time, the team has punched its ticket to two world championships — and earned quite a reputation in the process.
“I remember I met someone from another team, and I told them I was on DARC SIDE,” sophomore Renee George recalled. “And they were like, whoa, that's such a legendary team.”
Members of the DARC SIDE (Durham Academy Robotics Club: Students In Design and Engineering) recently returned from the 2018 FIRST World Championships in Houston, where they qualified for the semifinal round and earned the honor of being named 8th alliance captain. The performance capped an incredible second season — including a second-place finish and Innovation in Control Award at the state tournament, and a first-place finish at the Asheville district tournament.
“We weren't expecting to make it [to the world championships] the first year. And then this year, we thought of it more as a chance of making it — we weren't exactly expecting to go,” junior Tigey Jewell-Alibhai said. “I think the fact that we've been able to do it both years just really shows that even though we've had a couple of problems, we’ve worked really hard.”
One of those problems happened at the Asheville tournament, when one of the gear mechanisms that lifts the robot’s arm broke and “kind of spread its contents all over the field,” Jewell-Alibhai recalled with a wry smile. Without any backup parts that could quickly be swapped out, team members made some hurried trips to Home Depot in search of a replacement. With MacGyver-like skill and determination, they made it work and won the tournament.
Since then, the team has kept backups for all parts on hand just in case an emergency strikes. It’s just one of the lessons that have been learned along the way.
“This year, I think we had a better idea of what to do and what not to do, what we should use on the bot and what we shouldn't, and things like that,” explained sophomore Christian Muñoz, who is part of the mechanical team that puts the robot together physically. “Last year was definitely a learning experience and preparation for future years, and I bet we'll keep getting better in years to come.”
This year’s team also improved its scouting program, in which team members watch other teams in action to record data about strengths and weaknesses. Jewell-Alibhai led this year’s scouting program, which was more organized than last year’s and involved multiple team members helping with the effort.
“It's meant that we can have a much more reliable system, and we've had other teams come up to us and say that our system is amazing and that they'd like to know how we did it,” Jewell-Alibhai said.
The 2018 season officially began on Jan. 6 when teams around the world received a standard kit of parts and watched a FIRST Robotics Competition webcast during which organizers introduced the game — specifics vary from year to year — including what the robot must accomplish, how points can be earned and rules. This year’s game, POWER UP, had a retro arcade game theme. At its most basic, the objective of the game was for robots to collect “power cubes” and place them strategically in order to earn control of “switches” and “scales” for as much time as possible; teams of three work in alliances. Watch a more detailed visual explanation of the game below.
After six weeks of building and programming the robot — the DARC SIDE named this year’s machine “Dropkick” — all teams were required to bag their robots and not touch them unless at a competition event. The DARC SIDE, or Team #6502, competed in both the Asheville and Winston-Salem regional tournaments before competing in the North Carolina State Championship at Campbell University in early April.
With the second-place finish at the state tournament, the DARC SIDE earned a berth in the FIRST World Championships. Because of the vast number of people involved, it’s split into two locations: Houston (where the DA team competed) and Detroit.
The 16 DA students representing the DARC SIDE were among 405 FIRST Robotics Competition teams from around the United States and as far-flung as Brazil and Israel competing in Houston with “coopertition” — a FIRST term meaning “displaying unqualified kindness and respect in the face of fierce competition.”
“There are teams from all over the world,” George said, “and it's really interesting to meet people from a totally different culture, a totally different background, be joined together by this common goal of playing on an alliance together, trying to build a robot that can do all of these things.”
The four-day event also serves as an opportunity for students to talk with potential team sponsors and learn about college and university STEM programs from school representatives.
Some members of the DARC SIDE, like Muñoz, have long been interested in STEM: “I found out that when I was younger I love to build things. I was a hands-on sort of kid.”
But if tinkering hasn’t always been a passion, that shouldn’t be seen as a reason to not join the DARC SIDE fun, team members say.
“The team is super inviting,” said George, who didn’t have any experience with robotics prior to taking the Robotics I class — taught by robotics teachers and DARC SIDE advisors Leyf Starling and Forrest Beck — in the fall. “There's so much time to build your knowledge about it, even if you don't know that much about it. People will teach you things by observing and asking them questions — they're so open to that. If you don't know anything that's totally fine because you'll grow so much first year — it's amazing.
“The team has really helped me to discover a passion that I didn't really know about myself before.”
DARC SIDE 2018