The Herald Bulletin

April 1, 2013

Team Roboto heading to world championships

Students getting more practice with weekend competition first

By Dani Palmer
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — For the first time in its 14-year history, Team Roboto 447 is going on to the world championship not because the opportunity to do so presents itself every other year regardless of a team’s season record, but because it won first place at the regional competition.

With its win in Cincinnati at the end of March, the FIRST Robotics team comprised of Madison County students will be heading to the championships in St. Louis on April 23-26.

“It’s kind of addicting,” team member Olivia Walker, 16, said of the experience.

This year’s robot game is called “Ultimate Ascent.”

Alliances of three teams’ robots score points by launching flying discs through goals, then climbing a tower.

While Walker enjoys the mechanical side of the process, turning “a block of metal into a piece on the robot,” she works more on the public relations side, writing grant proposals and explaining her team’s robot to the judges.

She loves the people, meeting others from different schools and different locations around the world. One time, she said, they worked with a group from Israel and had to use translators to speak with them.

Unlike many of the other teams, Team Roboto 447 is not school sponsored, but rather adventure scout sponsored, said Dan Newby, one of the founders of the team.

“They (the students) have to have the desire to want to do this,” he said, adding many end up in fields like engineering and nuclear medicine.

Twenty-five students from area middle and high schools developed blueprints and built the robot in six weeks, putting in over 300 hours of work, mentor Scott Ray said.

The students are mentored by engineers, machinists, electricians, computer programmers and educators who are only there to assist if needed. Ray himself was on the team before he graduated in 2006 and came back to help.

“Our students are hands-on from Day One,” he said. “It gives them a different experience and more confidence going into college.”

They received video of what the competition would be in January along with the rulebook and had to bag the machine after the six-week building period.

During the first day of the competition period, they’ll have inspections and time to modify the machine. Between competitions, they work with their back-up robot.

“It’s been amazing because this is the type of career I want to go into when I’m older,” said Colin Hartman, 17, the team’s programmer. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s put me ahead of the curve.”

He loves to compete but said it’s much different from the football he plays.

The teams help each other out. He’s done programming for other teams and seen them go on to do well.

“We’ll help in the pits,” he said, “but go hard on the field.”

This weekend, the team will be competing in another competition at Rose Hulman because the mentors want the kids to continue to learn and improve, Ray said.

Before the world championship, however, the team must raise the funds to go: about $7,000. The registration fee alone is $5,000 and travel costs will be around $2,000.

The team is reaching out to local businesses and individuals for support.

Find Dani Palmer on Facebook and @DaniPalmer_THB on Twitter, or call 640-4847.