Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 19, 2014

RoboRams prepare for regionals

By TRAVIS MORSE travis.morse@register-news.com
The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Members of the Mt. Vernon Township High School Robotics Club were hard at work in the school’s machine shop room Saturday, making last-minute modifications to the robot they have built for this year’s regional competition.

The club, known as the RoboRams, had only six weeks to complete their robot and the regionals take place March 14 and 15 in St. Louis. The deadline for completion was by the end of Tuesday.

The finished robot will be sealed into a bag. The bag will then be opened when the robot is presented to judges at the regional event.

MVTHS senior Kole Cralley, a team captain for the Robotics Club, said the time constraint has been the most challenging part of this year’s project. Still, he was optimistic about the upcoming regional.

“We’re pretty close to finishing the robot,” Cralley said Saturday. “We’ll be able to accomplish most of the goals that they gave us.”

The Robotics Club has been in place at MVTHS for three years. Each year, the club competes at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Regional at the Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis.

Roughly 40 to 50 teams take part in the March regional. Of these teams, one will be chosen to move on to the worldwide competition this April, also in St. Louis.

The MVTHS team has named its robot this year, “Magnus Robot Fighter.” The machine measures about 23 inches in depth and 32 inches wide, and has movable mechanical arms. The robot can also be made to travel by remote control.

At the regional, the robot will have to complete various tasks and the team will be judged on how well their machine performs.

The robot’s primary task this year will be to pick up a large yoga ball and place it in a catapult. The ball will then have to be sent through a goal.

In addition to these activities, however, teams at the regional are also judged on how well they work together and collaborate with other teams, said Steven Odle, the MVTHS robot team sponsor.

“It is a competition, but will you help, out of your good will, all the other teams that are competing against you?” Odle said. “It’s really a big thing, teaching kids teamwork.”

The RoboRams team currently has about 15 active members.

MVTHS junior Rachel Bolerjack, the team treasurer, said she especially enjoys using her Computer Aided Design skills to help build the robot. This activity fits in well with her Project Lead The Way courses at the high school.

“It’s kind of nice to be able to learn new things and build some interesting stuff to achieve goals a certain way,” Bolerjack said. “I like machining the parts a lot. It’s pretty interesting.”

MVTHS junior Alex Nguyen Tran is the team’s safety officer. He does a lot of machining work for the Robotics Club, making parts for the robot.

“I’ve been into machining … so if they need a part I just go in the shop (and) make that part up with the dimensions they hand me,” Nguyen Tran said. “I’ve just been into robots for a long time, so it’s just kind of fun.”

Odle said it’s the hands-on aspect of the work that makes it so beneficial for the students.

“It’s going to be hands on, so much hands on,” Odle said. “We’re going to have to work through these, we’re going to have to design these, we’re going to have to build these. … We’ve got all these hands-on, problem solving (activities).”