Engineering a Victory
On a recent sunny Saturday, Erick Munoz and his Brown Robotics Olympiad teammates stood in the lobby of Barus and Holley, beaming widely. Each spring, a handful of schools from around the Northeast flock to Brown, armed with tiny robots programmed to maneuver through an intricate wooden maze. The team with the fastest, most efficient robot wins. This year, Erick’s team took home the top prize with a robot that traversed more than double the distance of the second-place finishers, effectively unseating the previous year’s champs, Harvard. Erick, a Sidney Frank Scholar and mechanical engineering concentrator, was the lone first-year on his team.
“It was a proud moment for us, and for Brown as well,” Erick says.
Erick’s road to Brown was not without obstacles. His mother speaks little English and often worked long, labor-intensive hours at a window manufacturing facility to support Erick and his younger brother. The family bounced around throughout Erick’s childhood from his birthplace in Chicago and then to Mexico before finally landing in Texas. The shifts in both curriculum and language, Erick says, proved to be challenging: “It always took me awhile to figure things out.”
But Erick persevered, eventually finishing third in his high school class before finding his new home on College Hill: “The scholarship has been incredibly helpful. So, I want to make sure I make the most of it.”
Erick is pursuing mechanical engineering due to his long-held interest in building things. He says that curiosity began in high school during a construction science course in which he helped build a shed and a house from scratch. At home, he’d find great satisfaction in fixing things like door hinges and stereo equipment, figuring it out completely on his own.
“I just naturally like learning how things work," he says. "It really helps with life."
As for his future at Brown, Erick plans to pursue the ‘solid’ side of mechanical engineering with an eye toward learning how to build things like jet and car engines. He got his first taste of it during the robotics competition, contributing his skills primarily to the chassis design and selecting the perfect pair of wheels for his team’s champion robot.
Erick will head back to Texas this summer to reconnect with friends and family. But come fall, he’ll be back at Brown, dreaming up new designs in hopes of defending his crown.