The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

February 21, 2013

4-H Robotics Team makes technological advancement

By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register

Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Teams competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition this spring had a deadline of midnight Tuesday to pack up their competition robots, bringing a six-week race to design, build and tweak their machines to an end.

The Orleans County 4-H Robotics Club used every last minute at their disposal, finishing work on FIRST Robotics Competition Team 4093’s second competition robot at 11:59 p.m. after a marathon session at RS Automation’s workshop.

Students from local high schools worked fast when it counted Tuesday, replacing a bent piston and getting the robot to climb a mock pyramid with just ten minutes to spare.

After debuting last year with a grounded robot that shot basketballs with a cross bow-style mechanism, the team has kicked their work up a notch. Their robot, nicknamed Wallee, is built to collect frisbees, climb up a three-level pyramid frame and deposit frisbees into a high goal.

”There’s twice as much wiring as last year,” Ben Miller, an Albion student and one of the team’s electricians and programmers. “This year we have to actually get the robot off the ground and climb up the pyramid ... it was different way to look at it.”

The task is accomplished using a v-shaped wedge outfitted with a latched continuous track. The team’s strategy is to drive their robot up to the pyramid, lean and latch on before climbing towards a score which could propel their three-robot alliance to victory.

The team is competing next weekend in the Ultimate Ascent challenge at the FIRST Robotics Competition’s Finger Lakes Regional, where Team 40943 made their debut last year.

The team members and mentors who experienced last year’s build said the team has improved greatly after their rookie campaign. Students jumped in with confidence during the early moments of Tuesday’s work session to repair the robot and brainstorm last-minute improvements.

”Our planning was a lot better, with last year’s experience under our belt,” Medina High School technology teacher Seth Karras, one of the team’s adult mentors, said. “It was cleaner, more professional this year.”

The growing team has about 20 students this year, mainly from the Medina and Albion areas. The robotics team and a FIRST Lego League team for middle school students are open to youth from across the county.

The FIRST program’s mission is to inspire and engage young people in unique science, technology, engineering and math challenges. Team 4093 newcomer Kelsie Evoy of Medina said she’s not sure what to expect from the regional competition, but has enjoyed working with the team on a hands-on challenge.

”I liked getting to meet new people and working on problem solving,” said Evoy, who is one of the team’s safety officers. “People taking physics and other classes said it helps.”

Contact reporter Jim Krencikat 798-1400, ext. 6327.