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Bolles Robotics: Programmed for Success

Bolles President and Head of School Tyler Hodges recently sat down with Bolles Chief Technology Officer and upper school robotics coach Paul Sollee ’88 to discuss the remarkable growth of Bolles Robotics since its inception.

What started with one team of between seven and 10 students on each lower school campus has evolved into more than 80 Bolles students competing on over a dozen FIRST LEGO League (FLL) and FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) teams across all four campuses.

“Bolles excels in athletics, but this is a different type of competitive sphere,” Hodges said. “I love that the numbers are growing, and I think it’s indicative of where education is moving in the future.”  

This year, Bolles hosted all regular season meets for FTC in Northeast Florida – stepping in to fill a major role in the community that involves rigorous planning and the efforts of many Bolles faculty and staff members. Sollee said he anticipates continuing to host the majority of FTC meets in the coming years.

He added that the commitment level for Bolles FTC teams has intensified, with two teams practicing every day after school from 3:15-5 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m.-12 p.m. and four teams practicing every Saturday from 12-4 p.m. The upper and middle school students also carve out time to discuss strategy and the future of robotics at Bolles with lower school teams.

Their hard work is paying off with Bolles robotics teams Patent Pending and Static Discharge winning bids to the FTC State Championship at a qualifying meet held February 4 on the Bolles Middle School Bartram Campus. These two teams are now preparing diligently for the tournament coming up March 3-4 in Winter Haven, Florida. Bolles lower school FLL teams the Council of Intellectual Aliens (CIA) and the Future Bolles Innovators (FBI) also won bids to regionals this year. Learn more about the Bolles FLL teams here.

Sollee said that the School’s commitment to supporting robotics has been essential to the program’s success. When Bolles Robotics began, students worked in a 200-foot space, and now, multiple teams can practice simultaneously in a 1,200-foot area in the Colmery Skills Center underneath Skinner-Barco Stadium. The new Center for Innovation will allow for even more room for Bolles Robotics to expand and flourish in the future, with a 2,000-foot space designated for teams to learn, collaborate and prepare for competitions.

Hodges encouraged the School community to attend a robotics competition, citing the enthusiasm and good-natured spirit of all the participating teams.  

“They’re supportive of each other and supportive of the other teams – they just get excited about the process,” Hodges said. “Obviously, we love to win, but it’s not always about winning. It’s more important about the growth and the character development.”

For more information about Bolles Robotics, visit the program page on our website.