Bots battle at robotics competition
By Mercedes Rodriguez
November 2, 2008
Shakamak students John Stevenson, Sarah McDonald, Cory Sullivan and Daniel Robertson competed in the VEX Robotics Competition Saturday. Other area schools competing included the Hoosier Hills Career Center, Bloomington High School North, Owen Valley High School and Brown County High School. Mercedes Rodriguez | Herald-Times
In a crowded room, four kids from Shakamak Junior-Senior High School crunched numbers and fretted together. Their little four-wheeled robot, dubbed Betty Bot, had to complete a figure eight maneuver on a square playing field. They had to do it without the use of a remote control, rather by writing a computer program that would automate Betty Bot’s movements.
They did it Saturday at the VEX Robotics Competition on the Ivy Tech Bloomington campus.
“This is our first time, so we’ve learned a lot and plan to come back,” said their teacher, Carol McDonald.
Teammates John Stevenson, Daniel Robertson, Cory Sullivan and Sarah McDonald attempted several runs and made changes to the computer program for the event, called the Pythagorean Autonomous Challenge. They came very close to completing the figure eight, but were continually stymied when Betty Bot kept crashing into one of the obstacles.
The event is sponsored by the Bloomington Robotics Club. The club, said event official Derek Smith, provided the 137 teams from all over Indiana in attendance with free kits from which to build their robots.
“We’re here to inspire the younger generation in engineering, technology and science fields,” he said. Smith was a Bloomington Robotics Club member in high school.
Teams build their robots to compete in several events. In one of them, called Top It Off, remote controls are used to direct the robots to fill three tubes with colored balls.
Robert Elliott, Will Ragle and Mike Russell, all Bloomington High School North students, competed in the Top It Off.
Theirs is a game of strategy. Robots from two opposing teams are placed on the same table. The other team can attempt to block access to the tubes. A technical snafu might happen in the middle of a round.
Elliott manned the controller during the final round. His hands shook from excitement even after time was called.
The appeals of robotics are manifold for these students. “You get to have fun, you get to build stuff with your hands and you get to have a competition,” said Russell.
In the end, several area schools walked away with prizes. Hoosier Hills Career Center won the tractor pull and the community service award for collecting the most canned goods for a food drive that day. They were one of the runners-up in the Top It Off.
Owen Valley High School won the autonomous event. Brown County High School won in the Top It Off and they won the creativity award.
Columbus Signature Academy won the engineering design award.