Middle Park High students gear up for robotics program
November 20, 2009
Sophomore Gabrielius Bertasius likes to build robots, but on his own, the experience has been “not so good,” he said, due to the difficulty of finding parts, which he usually extracts from old TVs and other appliances.So when the opportunity arose to join a robotics program being offered at Middle Park High School for the first time this year, Bertasius jumped at the chance.”I thought it was a good idea to join,” said the student, whose goal is to become an electronics engineer.His lab partner senior Colby Mulloy, who aims to enter aerospace engineering, said the program would “have been great to have all through high school.””It’s something fun to do,” he added. As many as 16 students have joined the robotics program, which mostly meets during study halls and after school on Wednesdays. The culmination of the program is an international FIRST Robotics Colorado Regional Competition in March at the University of Denver, which will test the group’s final 90- to 120-pound robot on a series of tasks. FIRST, which stands “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology,” was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, according to http://www.usfirst.org. Based in Manchester, N.H., the nonprofit “designs accessible, innovative programs that motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge, and life skills.” FIRST has the support of a network of fortune 500 companies and other agencies, such as NASA, National Instruments, Rockwell Automation, Boeing, GM, Motorola, Johnson & Johnson and DEKA. The sponsors help to reduce school costs for participation in the program. The $1,000 kit of parts – containing components such as motors, computer controllers, wireless transmitters, receivers and other parts – to build the robot is actually estimated to be worth about $14,000, according to Vance Coleman of Grand Lake, a computer scientist, self-proclaimed “geek” who is volunteering as the head engineer on the Middle Park project. A school’s entry in the competition is $5,500. Middle Park physics/biology teacher Calvin Trombley said the turnout to the class in its first year is encouraging. “It’s the only enrichment in science and math being offered” at the school, he said. The program most-likely will give students “a competitive advantage” in applying for and at the college level, Trombley said. The program is open to any student at the high school, and promotes not only science skills, but career business skills such as fundraising, public relations, writing, analyzing cost efficiencies and meeting deadlines. “It’s connecting math and science to real life,” Trombley said. – Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.