Senior Feature: Manoli Tramountanas

Robotics leader reflects on his four years in the club and what's ahead at UW Engineering

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by courtesy Tramountanas family

by Arjun Thomas, editor in chief

Taking measurements, testing code, and building. The auto shop is abuzz with the collaboration of robotics team members. They are on an intense six week build period, working diligently to complete the build challenge. In this work space, a robotics veteran paces around offering help and contributing in all aspects of the design process.

Manoli Tramountanas has been an active member of robotics (for both Shorewood and Shorecrest) for all four years of high school. He has led the Shorecrest SCOT Bots program since his sophomore year when he was promoted to team captain.

Tramountanas started his high school robotics career the fall of freshman year. He cites his entry into robotics to an interest in computer science and programming. 

“Coming out of middle school, I was really sure I wanted to do something in STEM. At the time, I thought I was going to pursue computer science, so I saw robotics as an excellent opportunity to get some programming experience. It seemed like plenty of those opportunities were offered,” he said.

Soon after he joined, Tramountanas started becoming more involved with the program. 

“My freshman year was mostly just learning the ropes. I spent a lot of time with the programming team just trying to learn how everything worked, but by the end of the year I became more involved. I helped test the robot at competition and I ended up going to the regional competition that year,” he said.

Sophomore year brought a series of changes in Tramountanas’ robotics career. The robotics program decided to expand beyond Shorewood and into Shorecrest. A new team formed, giving Tramountanas and experienced robotics team members an opportunity to achieve a leadership role. 

“I ended up joining the SCOT bots team and by the end of the year I was the team captain,” Tramountanas said.

Embracing a leadership role proved tough at first for Tramountanas. 

“During my sophomore year, I found it really tough to manage all the sections we have and figure out how the robot would  come together,” he said.

He resolved the pressures of his position by changing the team’s organizational structure his senior year.

“I started distributing leadership roles to the underclassmen. I am currently one of the eight leaders on the robotics team,” Tramountanas said. 

The team is still experimenting with organizational structure, but Tramountanas sees delegating leadership among several people as a step in the right direction. 

 “The structure we had this year worked. It was a lot better than the past two years. Having one team leader isn’t necessarily a good thing. On the one hand, it makes things happen faster, but on the other hand it puts a lot of stress and responsibility on the one team captain,” he said.

Reflecting on his time in robotics, Tramountanas says that he will miss the people that he worked with the most. 

“I have made a lot of very good friends on the robotics team over time. It’s a great experience and once you build a robot with a group of other people, it’s really hard to forget,” Tramountanas said.

He believes that robotics has given him valuable skills and lessons that he will also take into the future. 

“Robotics has probably been the most transformative experience in high school. In fact, I’d probably remove the probably. It taught me how to be a more effective leader; It taught me how to set effective deadlines and meet them; It taught me about how to work with other people to use our collective knowledge and create a final product that is effective and expressive of everyone’s talents,” he said.

Tramountanas changed his career choice from computer science to mechanical engineering because of his time in robotics. 

“I am going to UW to pursue mechanical engineering because I found out that I enjoyed that through my time in robotics. Being at the [meetings] gave me experience with the mechanical side of robotics since we needed to fix any problems in a timely fashion. No matter how committed you are to learning one specific part of the robot, you’ll ultimately end up getting experience with many engineering fields,” Tramountanas said. 

Due to the variety of learning experiences available, Tramountanas advises those going into robotics to take an open-minded approach. 

“Keep your options open. Try lots of new things on the team because you will never know what you will like. Make lots of new friends too. Those people are what get you through build season and high school.”