Levi Anderson has two things he has been passionate about throughout high school: Team SCREAM and show choir.
While the two may be polar opposites to many, for Anderson both center on precision and the desire to strive for improvement.
“Performing with show choir is the only thing that comes close to giving me the same feeling, the same rush of happiness that I get when I have written a piece of code and the robot I am programming moves in the exact manner that I have written for it,” Anderson said. “That feeling is comparable to show choir when we have been practicing a movement and I finally get it down and hit it every time.
“I do it for the exact same reason,” Anderson added. “Both light me on fire and I love it.”
Anderson began performing with show choir when he was in seventh grade. Robotics came two years later when Anderson was a freshman and joined Team SCREAM.
“I’m not big on setting plans years and years in advance, but I can see myself programming and working with robotics in some capacity in the future,” Anderson said. “That would be my dream job.
“There is a thrill in knowing that I was given a hunk of metal and then I taught it how to go to different spots and how to move,” Anderson added. “There is something about knowing that no one else has made that exact set of actions in the exact same way as I did that intrigues me.”
Anderson said the best analogy he can make is a reference to language.
“There are so many different languages in the world and tons of different dialects and ways to pronounce the words,” Anderson said. “That’s what I do with programming, I get to create new words, a new vernacular that can make something incredible happen.”
This is Anderson’s first year to program the robot that will be used in the competitive season for Team SCREAM, which begins today.
“I used a lot of online resources and listened to the advice of others to help me learn to do things to improve Tempest (Team SCREAM’s robot),” Anderson said. “My father is a complete computer geek who works in Kingsville, Texas for Texas A&M University and he and my mother have been incredibly supportive in all I do.
“My mother is the registrar here at Smith-Cotton and she has always been there for me too,” Anderson added. “In fact during the build season I think I saw her more at school than I did at home.”
Anderson said during the team’s 40-day build season he would often be home only long enough to sleep and then get ready for school the next day, adding that it feels weird to be able to go home at a normal hour.
During the competitive season for show choir Anderson said there were not any conflicts with scheduling between the two events.
“I’ve been very lucky this year,” Anderson commented. “There were times when I would go to the actual show choir competition and then rush to work on Tempest but we managed to work everything out.
“If I ever was forced to choice I would have to go with Team SCREAM because that is where my future is.” He added. “I think in terms of where would I be missed less and that is show choir.”
As team captain, head programmer and lead driver for Team SCREAM, Anderson plays a vital role on the team.
It is a role he said has helped prepare him for life.
“The last four years have meant everything to me,” Anderson said. “When I was a freshman I had no plans and no sense of direction.
“I wasn’t confident and I was not an interesting person by any means,” he added. “Being a part of Team SCREAM has helped me to grow and expand; it has led me to be more self-reliant and more likable.”
Anderson credits much of his success to Michael Wright, Team SCREAM coach and instructional technology teacher at Smith-Cotton.
“Mr. Wright puts in more time in robotics than I can imagine,” Anderson said. “He always challenges us to make it better and faster and wants us to improve in every way.
Wright has equal praise for Anderson.
“He is a student I can genuinely say I have enjoyed working with and spending time with these past four years,” Wright said. “He came in here as a freshman who had never used a power tool in his life and now he is one of our most dynamic members; he simply can do it all.
“I’ve enjoyed watching him mature into the leader and young man that he is today, I don’t know how he does all he does at the level that he competes at,” Wright added. “He is simply a phenomenal young man.”
Anderson plans to take the summer off before continuing his education at Missouri S&T in Rolla.
“I don’t have a specific place where I want to work after graduation,” Anderson said. “I know the future will involve programming robots like I am now.
“I know I want to give back and hopefully become a mentor to other students and help them in same way I was.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484