Robotics studentAnika Jane Beamer, a homeschooled senior, is a vital a part of the Mercy High School Riveters Robotics team in Farmington Hills — and one of the thousands of Michigan students who are the brains behind the robots built for FIRST Robotics competitions.

She took a brief break from helping construct her team’s robot at Mercy High School to talk with us about her experiences in FIRST Robotics.

Name: Anika Jane Beamer

Age: 16

What school do you attend and what grade are you in?

I’m a senior and I am homeschooled.

Home schooled; that’s cool. How did you get involved with the Mercy High School robotics team?

I joined the team before it was affiliated with Mercy. My parents were friends with Dan Riehl – one of the founding mentors – and I sort of got sucked in at its inception and then stayed on when it partnered with Mercy High School.

Why robotics in the first place?

I have a pretty fantastic history of scotch tape and cardboard construction. I always liked to build stuff and wanted to do hands-on construction. Plus, I think my parents were happy to see me put my curiosity for building towards something worth-while.

What role do you have on this year’s team?

I’m the team project manager. I oversee all the communications, setting and maintaining schedules, and inter-project team negotiations.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned, while being a part of the team?

It’s kind of a cliché, but I was very much a perfectionist when I joined the team. Since then, I have absolutely learned that failure is completely necessary and any success we’ve had was due to a failure we encountered earlier. That was enlightening. Also, I know how to use power tools now!

Do you have an example of when you and your team overcame a failure and turned it into a success?

In 2016, we had a climb mechanism that we had been working on the entire season. We had this whole scissor arm theory and there were so many complex parts going into it and we couldn’t get the robot to climb high enough. But at the world championship, thanks to a zip tie of all things, we finally got it to work for the first time!

Better late than never! Outside of STEM, what is the most important skill being a part of a robotics team has taught you?

Leadership. We’re a team that is teaching teen girls the opposite of what they’re usually being told. That they can be strong, vocal leaders and be successful instead of deferring to others.

Any plans for after graduation?

I’m going to college. I’m not sure which one yet, but I plan to study pre-med.

Why pre-med?

When I started robotics, I wanted to be an interior designer, but then I learned how cool engineering was so I switched to wanting to become a biomedical engineer. As I delved deeper into that and had more experiences with biology and medicine, I realized that the biomedical portion was more appealing than the engineering. I still love robotics and engineering, but I’m fascinated by biology and the philanthropic aspect of medicine.

This year, the world championship is in Detroit. Does that add any extra meaning for you?

Yeah, we’re all really proud of Michigan’s robotics programs and how many teams we have so I think we all feel a sense of pride it’s being held here. It’s a recognition of our strong commitment. However, it does add a little pressure because it feels like we must qualify!

So, outside of robotics, what do you like to do?

I like to read, I play soccer, and I have a non-profit charity that I run.

A non-profit charity?! Tell me more about that.

It’s called Blessed Birthdays. I host birthday parties for at-risk kids in the Brightmoor neighborhood of Detroit and displaced kids in Farmington.

FIRST Robotics is a worldwide organization that encourages students to pursue education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Each year, FIRST challenges high school teams around the world to build robots to accomplish goals on a gaming floor.

DTE Energy is an active supporter of FIRST Robotics in Michigan, sponsoring more than 30 teams across the state. In addition, dozens of DTE employees volunteer their time as coaches and mentors throughout the season, including skills-based volunteerism in computer programming and engineering.

This season is particularly exciting for Michigan teams: Detroit is hosting the FIRST Robotics world championship. This April, thousands of players representing teams from across the globe will compete at the Cobo Center — and our Michigan kids will be working to be a part of that crowd.

Leading up to the world championship, we’ll introduce you to many of the people of robotics and share the teams’ stories as they build robots and compete.