Turning an extracurricular into a career


Extracurriculars are often seen as purely recreational, but some programs provide valuable experience and skills for a future career. Take, for example, Zebrotics, Community’s robotics team. Team members can have several different roles, from engineering a robot to marketing for the team.

“I joined the team to get experience for the future because I’d like to become a graphic designer,” said Max Westrum, Zebrotics’ head of marketing and one of the team’s four seniors. “I think that I’ve done a lot of good work. In fact, I think I’ve done the most work toward my career in this club… [work] I could put in a portfolio.”

Zebrotics is open to everyone, regardless of their career path. Senior Ned Capuano, the team’s captain, has been a member of Zebrotics for all four years of high school, but he didn’t join strictly to gain experience. Instead, he joined simply because he enjoys robotics.

Capuano and members of the engineering department with the team’s robot. After the objective of the robotics competition is announced, teams have six weeks to design and build a robot.

“I joined [Zebrotics] because I had been with the program, FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology] for the past seven-odd years,” Capuano said. FIRST Robotics, a robotics competition for high schools around the world, awards students college scholarships while also giving students marketable engineering experience.

“When businesses like Ford or larger companies see that you’ve done [FIRST], they’re that much more interested in you,” Capuano said.

With the seniors’ final day as members of Zebrotics inching closer and closer, they enjoy taking time to reflect on their experiences on the team.

“My favorite part of it, I have to say, is when we go and the robot works,” Capuano said, adding that he loves the feeling of being on the field. “[I]n sporting events, you have that adrenaline when you’re ready to play the game… You get the same effect with robotics.”

Westrum and members of the team’s marketing department. Though building a robot and competing in the FIRST Competition is Zebtorics’ main focus, members can contribute to the team in several different ways.

“I genuinely enjoy meeting other people from other teams, working on building the team’s image… it really validates me,” Westrum said.

Westrum and Capuano both gained not only career experience from their extracurricular interest but also learned skills needed every day.

“[You must] have a work ethic, have a vision or contribute to the team,” Westrum said, adding some advice for prospective competitive robotics team members. “Don’t just bide your time and wait for everything to come to fruition because most likely, it’s not going to without your help… You can become part of that process.”