The J-L High School Robotics Team made an impressive showing at the
JLHS Robotics program continues to grow
Interest in the robotics program at Johannesburg-Lewiston High School seems to be growing. Though the school has only had the program for three years, the number of those taking part is on the rise. "This is probably the biggest team I've had," said Tony Fortin, program coordinator in JoBurg. "Every year we pick up a couple."
A total of 16 students from J-L participated this year in the worldwide competition that involved 1,300 teams. The teams are given the same set of parts and a problem to solve. Additional parts can be utilized, but Fortin said budgets are not to exceed $3,500. He estimated robots constructed over the last three years averaged $1,000 each.
The team is matched with two other teams for three on three competitions. Two years ago, the problem was to construct a robot to play life-sized tic tac toe with inner tubes. Last year, robots had to race laps and try to get giant beach balls to cross the finish line the same time as the robots.
Fortin said this year's theme, "Lunacy," was chosen to commemorate man's landing on the moon. The robots had to load orbit balls, made of rings, into trailers belonging to the opposition. However, because of the lack of gravity in space, the robots had to maneuver on a slippery surface meant to simulate the lack of traction on the moon.
"It was probably the best game so far," Fortin said. "It was quite a diverse lesson." In some instances, he said robots tried to pin trailers for easy targeting, and human participants tried to land balls in trailers from outside the playing surface. The variety of ways balls could land in trailers made the competition interesting, Fortin said.
Students watch a kick-off video of the year's project. Then, they have six weeks to complete the robot. Brainstorming takes about two days, he said, and includes defensive and offensive strategies. The students work a few evenings after school until the design process is done, then an average of eight hours every Saturday and Sunday is consumed by the project.
In addition to coordinating the robotics program, Fortin also teaches CAD, drafting and money management as well as coaches cross country and track. He said the robotics program is an asset to the school's curriculum. "We don't have a metals class or machine shop. It teaches something we don't have readily available," he said. Participation in the program is growing in part because students who are part of the team one year continue to be part of the team the next. Two former team members have earned college scholarships for participating. "Once you get a taste of it, you can't wait until next year to see if you can do better," Fortin said.
The robot is primarily done by his CAD students, he said, but the robotics team is made up of a mixed bag of students. "It's about team spirit, networking and problem solving," Fortin said. "It doesn't take an engineer as much as someone who thinks outside the box."
This year's team placed seventh in competition in Traverse City and tied for seventh with seven other teams in the West Michigan District Competition. Fortin said robots from past years will be used as training models for future teams.
JOHANNESBURG - The Johannesburg-Lewiston High School (J-L HS) robotics team recently received a $1,000 grant from the Otsego County Community Foundation. This grant will be used to assist the team in its 2009 U.S. FIRST High School Robotics Challenge season expenses.
The team competes in something known as the FIRST Robotics Competition where in six weeks they must design, build, test and ship a robot that can perform a specific task in a predetermined challenge. Last season, the robot had to take laps on a small track while throwing a ball over a hurdle in the track to earn points for the team.
THE TEAM is preparing for the coming season, which kicked off worldwide on January 3rd, where it received its kit of parts and the description of this year's challenge. The challenge is kept secret from all teams until the kick-off date.
The J-L HS team, also known as Red Rage Robotics, will be competing in the Traverse City District at Traverse City High School and the West Michigan regional at Grand Valley State University.
Members of the Red Rage Robotics team are high school students of any gender with varying abilities and a good academic standing. This is the team's third year of competition.