MT. VERNON — Membership in the Mt. Vernon Township High School Robotics Club is open to individuals from all walks of life.
One adult mentor describes the school's current membership as artists, dreamers, mathematicians, geeks, nerds and jocks.
The group will be attending the annual First Robotics regional competition Thursday through Saturday at Chaivetz Arena in St. Louis.
"There will be Robotics clubs from high schools in Illinois, Missouri, and Kentucky, and their could be others, depending on whether they have competed in other regionals. They're allowed to do that," according to faculty sponsor Steve Odle.
"Every year there is a different challenge. Last year it was rebound, rumble. This year is a little different. We have to throw frisbees at one of various height goals — more points for hitting the higher heights. The low goals may be achievable, and actually, may be better we think," Odle said.
"They also have a pyramid. It has rungs every 30 inches. If you want to score big points your robot must climb at least one of those rungs at a time and be there when the finish bell goes off. If we want to score 20 points within the 2 1/2 minute time limit, we have to do whatever frisbee shooting we can do, then we have to get the robot to climb the second rung," he added.
Team members have been practicing on their manuever, although according to the rules of the competition, their robot had to be tagged and bagged after six weeks of assembly. The MVTHS team finished with assembly just before 9 p.m. Feb. 19.
"We realized in our practice that we had to work on our climbing skills. We just didn't quite have enough power, and we had the parts ordered but wouldn't you know it, they're on backorder. So we're hoping to get them installed. On the first day there, we hope to install our secondary gear drive, and that will allow us to more than double the power on our robot now for climbing."
The group will be allowed to work on the robot before the competition begins.
"We've been able to keep 30 pounds — that's the weight limit — not including our batteries, buffers, and tools, out that allows us to improve by the time we get there on Thursday. If we do get these installed and they work like we plan, then we are much better off than we were," Odle said.
"I assist in the learning and education of building a robot. My job is to be like a technical expert to help them along with creation. They come up with the idea, I just help them make their ideas a realization," said mentor Rob Cooper. "I have built robots before and I have worked with robot equipment," added the Continental Tire of the Americas maintenance supervisor.
"I think the kids have put in a great effort. This is the second year they've done it. They only get six weeks to make a robot from scratch and we take team members from all walks of life. I think we'll have one of the most diverse teams over there. Everybody learns a little something from everybody else while building the robot," he added.
Odle said the MVTHS club has grown since it was introduced a couple of years ago.
"We pick out kids, we ask them if they're interested. We introduce them to our robotics class. I also teach a digital electronics class, welding and machine shop manufacturing. So a number of my kids from those classes have an interest in robotics," Odle said. "We've been meeting every Tuesday night after school to get the idea, tell them what we're going to do and get ready to work on the robot."
Odle said he has about eight students who are active members and 12 that "come and go." During the assembly of the robot, Odle said everyone that helped qualified to go on the trip.
"We've got kids who every time the doors are open they are here. They're interested, they're applying themselves, and they're learning. It's a hands-on experience. They've contributed to this and they're proud, and it's a good experience for them," Odle said.