Kremmling West Grand students ready to compete in regional robot championships
In what would have been considered science fiction a few years ago, a team of West Grand High School students has designed and built a robot that will be battling other robots in a competition later this month.The 15 students of Lori Haacks robotics class came up with the robots design and constructed it over a six-week period this winter. The robot can operate in both automated and remote-control modes.The students goal was to create a working robot that can compete and hopefully win in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competitions regional championships on March 27 to 29 at the University of Denver. The winning team in the DU regional competition will earn a berth to the FIRST Robotics National Championships in Atlanta, Ga., scheduled for April 17 to 19.This is our third year that well be going to the Robotics Competition, Haack said. This program has proved to be a wonderful experience for our West Grand students. Were the only rural mountain high school between Grand Junction and Denver to compete in the regionals.Forty teams and their robots are expected to compete at the three-day DU regionals. The student-built robots are required to perform several different tasks during the contest. Under the rules of this years FIRST Robotics competition, four robots will be competing at the same time. The robots will be required to race around an oval track which is bridged by a 6 foot, 6inch tall metal rack that holds 10-pound, 40-inch diameter inflatable balls. Each robot must knock a ball off the rack, push it around the track, lift and push the ball over the rack as many times as possible, and finally lift and place the ball back in the rack. Each of the laps completed by each robot as well as number of times the ball was successfully lifted over the rack earns points toward a final team score. During the first 15 seconds of the competition, the robots must perform in the automatic mode by extending their gripper arms and making a circuit of the track. Then two student controllers take over and guide the robot for the next two minutes of the competition. The three days of the regionals are like playing an entire season of football, Haack said. There is lots of excitement in the stadium where team members and spectators are cheering for their robots.West Grands robot, named 1789 Thingamabot Robot but also known as Ed, has two student controllers, Mike Bunker and Brandon Guite, both seniors. Guite will be the robots driver who will control it as it travels around the oval track while Bunker operates its telescoping claw arm, which will grab and lift the ball over the rack.We have high expectations for this years regionals, Bunker said. Last year, we were in the tiebreaker. If wed have won, we would have gone to nationals.Guite agreed. If we win and go to nationals, it would be one heck of an experience, he said.During the 2007 regional championships, the West Grand team was one of the top seven teams in the 40-team competition and came close to winning in the semifinals. In 2006, they had won the Johnson & Johnson Perseverance Award for their troubleshooting of technology issues at that years regionals.Teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, as well as the ability to overcome obstacles, Haack said. Scoring the most points is a secondary goal. Winning means building partnerships that last.The teamwork required to complete the West Grand robotics project began to develop just after Christmas break. During classtime and after school, the students brainstormed, designed and redesigned the machine several times.We spent about 150 hours outside of school working on it, Bunker said. The last couple of days before we shipped it off were 14-hour days.Haack explained that the FIRST Robotics organization supplies each team with two large containers of robot parts, including motors, frame rails and electrical components that students can use. Each team is allowed to fabricate additional parts as needed.Matt Johnson, a junior, was the chief fabricator for the project.We did a lot of metal work and other stuff for the robot, he said. We helped assemble and weld it together. This was my first year on the robotics project. Some days were pretty frustrating and it was a lot of work.Under the rules of the robotics competition, every team is allowed an engineering mentor who can help the students design their robot. West Grands mentor is Dave Brence, an engineer from the Climax Mine.It was my job to help weed out some of the ideas that wouldnt work and run the numbers to help them come up with a fabrication design that suited their skill levels, Brence said. It was challenging, especially when you only have six weeks to do the design and construction. But it was also rewarding to see young minds at work. Their interest in science and technology is very encouraging.West Grand High Schools Robotics class is expressing its thanks to all of its sponsors including Everist Materials, Bumgarner Ranches, Henderson Mill, Mountain Parks Electric, Grand Mountain Bank, Blue Valley Ranch, Mountain Park Concrete, Target and Town & Country Insurance.We couldnt have done it without them, and we again give them so many thanks, Haack said.
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Grand Lake officials will discuss next week a plan to halt new construction in downtown Grand Lake.