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Let them rise

By Staff | Jan 9, 2013

Pine Island parents are rallying behind their kids, as well as the youngsters’ teammates, to support their creations and root them on when their robots take action during the First Tech Challenge program competitions.

Six Mariner High School students are gearing up for another competition, the 2nd Annual Great Robot Uprising, which will be held at the school Jan. 19 with open ceremonies at 10 a.m. The teams are competing to see if they qualify for the state championship.

The top 24 teams in Florida receive an invitation to compete at the State Championship battle at Embry Riddle University in March.

This year’s game is coined “Ring it Up.” The students have to design and create a robot that can grab a hold of rings and place them on different levels of pegs to earn points.

“They are designing a robot to do a specific order of things,” said Gerry Rossman, the official coach of the team.

Gerry decided to take on the official coach position of the robotics team this year.

“I spent a lot of time with them last year,” he said due to the amount of traveling they did since it was a statewide competition.

The robotics league is different this year because the interest became too large and the competitions were extremely long. Instead of one league for the whole state of Florida, it is now broken up into four or five leagues. The Pine Island Crew, otherwise known as the Marinerds, are a part of the Southwest Florida league.

The first competition, which was held in October, earned the Mariner High School team first place in performance and judging. In the second competition they fared well with second place for the same two categories.

The team is currently ranked fourth in the state.

“Mariner High School was one of the pilot programs,” Gerry said. “The kids are into the technology and engineering and doing very well.”

The initial building of the robot began in August by Mariner High sophomore and junior students and has been ongoing as it competes against others throughout the year. After every competition, the students have the opportunity to tweak their robot to enhance its performance, so it can earn more points at the next competition.

Gerry said the team receives the basic kit of parts from the school for its robot, but any extra parts have to be purchased by the students.

“If you burn a motor, you have to buy a motor,” he said.

Sophomore Michael Schulte said when they began building the robot they first started assembling the driving portion of it and then made room for the electrical components, which was then followed by the base mount and the arm of the robot.

The robot has to be 18 inches tall and wide.

Junior Gerilynn Rossman said the arm was difficult to design and it took several times and extra parts to get the claw to work just right. Through networking with other teams and researching different ways to construct an arm, Gerilynn built a six bar linkage arm.

Now the robotic claw works on two motors and gears to ensure it can pick up rings.

Schulte said they initially started off with the robot being a two-way drive, but soon found out that did not work, so they turned their creation into a four-way drive.

“The four-way drive was the way to go,” he said.

Gerry said the robot is not a model that you build and put on the shelf.

“It’s evolving all the time,” he said.

As a second year member of the team, Schulte said he enjoys designing and creating the robot from scratch and making it come to life.

The team has spent countless hours on the patio of Gerry’s home enhancing the robot to get it ready for the Jan. 19 competition.

Gerry thinks it is great for the kids because it is teaching them hands-on skills.

“It’s teaching them something they actually have to use,” he said. “They can actually see a creation doing the job. They enjoy learning something that they can see that they built with their hands and see what it does.”

In addition to building the robot for the competition, there are other aspects that tie into the overall score of that competition.

Team members junior Megan Tedlie and junior Jasmine Singh took on the task of creating the engineering notebook, which includes drawings of what the team is doing.

Singh said it is about documenting what has been done on paper, so a teammate can refer back to it when needed. She said she also takes photographs for the team for further documentation.

The students are also reaching out to the younger crowd this year through their mentor team, Junior First Lego League. Tedlie said they work with first and second grade students at Trafalgar Elementary School. This year the students had to create something out of Legos that would help senior citizens.

The mentoring program is held once a week for six or seven weeks with the same kids before a break occurs and new kids are grouped together.

“It’s cool to see little kids want to do what we do when they grow up,” Tedlie said.

Singh agreed that it is fun to work with the younger kids because of what they create with Legos.

“It’s fun to watch them and their ideas because their ideas are really big,” she said.

One of the Lego creations that Singh witnessed a youngster create was a flying car to help the senior citizens transport things.

To follow this team accomplishments visit their Facebook page “Parents and Supporters of Kids Who Love FTC Robotics in Southwest Florida.”