Non-Academic Activities in WHS Robotics
This article was last updated on: January 31st 2023
A slack exchange between Charlie and Cody on September 24th of 2021.
"It's an IT man conspiracy."
- Charlie Nolan during the Unexplained Ethernet Shutoff incident, 02/28/2020.
"They did not "detect suspicious internet activity". I can literally Google "how to build a pipe bomb" with no repercussions."
- Charlie Nolan in the Willemstan documentary on the fall of the robotics crypto-mine.
According to a few members of the team, the FIRST Robotics Team suffers from an abundance of free time. Furthermore, the majority of the robotics team is comprised of Willemstan citizens, as previously mentioned. These two factors create the perfect storm, and allow for all sorts of activities that would otherwise be impossible to conduct under proper supervision and guidance. The operations in this article were conducted by the System trio, with most of the credit going to Charlie Nolan. While Dr. Spina and the administration were unable to fully pin the suspicious activity on the trio at first, the March Incident gave them all the ammunition they needed. Since the incident, Charlie, Ian, and Sean have retired from their role as WCS cyberterorists.
While Willemstan is no longer blatantly violating school rules under the mask of the robotics team, there was still still some skirmishes with the IT Men afterword. In the summer of 2020, most of the technology in the room was upgraded and changed. This was further reinforced in 2021 post-Incident. Among these upgrades were much better security, which could only be bypassed via Tor. While we had understandably earned this slap on the wrist, the team quickly found that the new restrictions interfered with the software and code needed for the robots. Even the laptops directly given to the team were heavily restricted. In May of 2021, after Charlie and others bypassed some restrictions and forcibly installed the software the team needed on a laptop, said laptop was quickly abducted by the IT Men. During September of 2021, the team managed to get the bare minimum going in terms of programming, but was still deeply hindered by unnecessary restrictions. Eventually, Cody caved an met with the IT Men to discuss the issue. On September 24th of 2021, Cody reported that the IT Men were willing to grant the team administrative rights on the robotics computers. They asked for a list of software to install, as they needed to wipe each computer in order to change up the permissions.
Unfortunately, it wasn't all hunky-dory after that. On October 6th of 2021, the team discovered that the new administrative account the IT Men provided did not work on any computer except for a single robotics laptop, which randomly reset itself. This issue remained unresolved because communications between Cody and the IT Department were poor, to which many members of the team blame Cody for, since he did not really take our software needs seriously. During January 2023, this dispute was finally resolved, thanks to direct IT Man support. Needed robotics software was installed directly by the IT Men, and the laptop erasure issue seemes to have gone away for now.
The team has had access to two storage rooms adjacent to D2 for years. All of the contents inside of it have been neglected and forgotten by the school. This has lead to several members of Willemstan taking stuff from the storage rooms. At one point in 2019, an old server was taken and used for crypto-mining. Furthermore, an old laptop made in July of 2004 was abducted by Charlie (with Cody's permission). This laptop would later be used as Charlie's school computer and for robotics. At some point, the ram was upgraded to two gigabytes, but the specs are absolutely awful.
More recently, several items were stolen during 2021 and 2022. This included dozens of scantrons for the Bad Coping Club, a book, and an SD card belonging to an old camera. A staff registry packet from the late 2000s was also taken by Charlie, which contains tons of information on school staff. At the end of the 2022 robotics season, a "great looting" took place, in which many members of the team took things from the storage room.
The following is a conclusive list of all somewhat malicious activities conducted in the robotics room, as well as the incidents that occurred as a result of them.
Main article: System IV
System IV was hosted on a computer in the robotics room from October 9th 2019 until July 27th 2020.
Live Camera Feed: Season One
Main article: Live Camera Feed
The first season of Live Camera Feed was live streamed on the same computer that ran System IV and SuS, from January 2020 - April 2020. The camera footage seen on the livestreams typically featured the robotics room at all hours. The computer was attached to a large guitar amplifier, which was used to blast tunes to confuse students and staff.. The stream came to an end thanks to the 2020 renovations. The amplifier was missing in action for several months, even during the 2020 Rescue Operation, but was found at the start of the 2021 season.
The First CryptoCurrency Mine
The 1st Cryptocurrency Mine was activated during September of 2019. The currency chosen to mine was XMR, rather than Bitcoin, as it was oversaturated. There were four computers running it, including the laptop provided to the WHS Robotics Team for free, as well as a retired school computer, 2 small business desktops, an eMachines tower, and occasionally other computers. It is worth noting that the laptop is significantly more powerful than the other computers given to / stolen by the team. As you probably know, cryptocurrency mining consumes a significant amount of current, given enough hardware. Oftentimes, the amount of currency generated was worth less than the power consumed by the mine. The team needed a free, functionally infinite source of power. For once in its several decades of life, Williamston High School helped its students. Through use of the unoccupied outlets, on top of the school's free wifi, the mine was operated around the clock, generating mere pennies a week at no cost to the team.
One day at Williamston High School, a couple members of the Robotics Team decided to move one of the computers used for the mine to a more concealed location, a sink cabinet. When they opened up the sink cabinet, they discovered a rather lifeless, cold, expired, inanimate, perished rat. Words that did not apply to the ravished rodent are "alive", "healthy", "bright", and "not dead". Those present for the incident would christen it "The Dead Rat Incident".
The crypto mine made $4 in profit. Need I remind you that was an infinite profit margin for the team, and an infinitely negative profit margin for WHS, as they were footing the power and internet bill. Naturally, such a profitable venture was sure to attract unwanted attention...
The First IT Man Raid
On November 3rd of 2019, sometime near the end of the school day, the IT Men entered the robotics room on a search and destroy mission. According to Charlie and Sean, they unplugged many of the computers' ethernet and power cords, unfortunately damaging some of the ethernet ports in the process. Many of the computers were forcibly moved from their original positions and displaced, most notably a laptop that had ended up on the other side of the room. Note that most of these computers were not school property. The IT Men had apparently discovered and isolated an increase in internet traffic caused by the first Crypto Mine and the additional router. They came into the room to shut it all down. Later, an email was sent to Cody, describing the event. It was explained that the second router was causing issues for the school, but did not completely link the crypto mine to the team. In response, Charlie fortified System IV with several security measures to make it "IT-Man proof". Crypto-mining was paused for a while.
The email accompanying the original IT Men raid, sent to Cody from Dr. Delp.
The Second CryptoCurrency Mine
The 2nd Cryptocurrency Mine was launched in February of 2020, and remained online until a few weeks after the school closed due to COVID-19. This time, the mine consisted of 6 computers slaving away, many of which were the personal property of team members. The team tried to experiment with the possibility of using a 20-year old computer as a mining computer because multiple graphics cards were available to it, but this idea was disregarded after determining the computer was too old.
Despite the increase in hardware, the mine only generated a mere 80 cents. The code for the mine was lost during the Great Leap Forward (of district technology).
The "Unexplained Ethernet Shutoff" Incident
On February 28th of 2020, at 7:59am, all robotics computers lost ethernet connection. This caused the Crypto Mine, Live Camera Feed #5 livestream, and more to go offline, as the ethernet is their only way of the computers running them to connect to the internet. The only thing that did not go offline was System IV, as it has a backup wireless internet connection available for situations exactly like this. Speculation quickly led to conspiracy that the IT Men raided the room once again, as they have been known to do that sort of thing. The ethernet was reported to have only failed in the robotics room. However, when no mention of the incident was made by the IT Men, Cody, Dr. Delp, or Mrs. LaFleur, that implied it wasn't a raid after all. The true cause behind the event remains unknown to this day, but it was likely a random crash of some sort.
Live Camera Feed: Season Two
Main article: Live Camera Feed: Season Two
The Live Camera Feed returned shortly after the robotics team came back from the dead in January of 2021. A different computer was used to host the stream, because System IV was still hosting the Willemstan Website at Charlie's house. This new computer was not as well disguised and protected as the System IV computer, and the team paid dearly for this mistake. At one point, several staff members stormed the robotics room and found the AMP, which Sra. Ide refered to as "the speaker system". Not long after, the entire operation was busted in what became known as the March Incident.
The Second IT Men Raid
On May 5th of 2021, it became known that an IT Man recently entered the robotics room and kidnapped a laptop that belonged to the team in an act of blatant overreach. This laptop had a password set in the BIOS, which Charlie set in order to free the laptop from school network restrictions. The laptop was missing for a full month. The laptop was finally returned to the team on June 2nd of 2021, and sure enough, it was assimilated into the school network. Some applications were kept intact, but most were deleted, including the team's robot code. This incident was quickly dubbed the "Second IT Men Raid" by Ian, even though it wasn't much of a raid, as only a single item was taken.
Charlie's report on the incident to members of the System IV group chat.
The Third IT Men Raid
This one wasn't as much of a raid as it was an assist. During January 2023, the robotics laptops were taken and permissions updated. Additionally, the needed robotics software was installed by the IT Men. This has entirely resolved the issues from the previous year, where the team was bogged down by computer restrictions and random resets thanks to increased network restrictions.
The robotics laptops in the tech office on January 4th 2023.