Sunday, Apr 22, 2018
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Robots get human touch


The 14-member team that includes Toledo Technology Academy and Rogers High School students, with advice from Dana Corp., built a robot that can grab two barrels at a time.

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Some are strong, some are speedy, and all are ready to do battle.

Robotic warriors will break free from storage crates today to prepare for a whirlwind game with balls, barrels, and robot teams.

“It's like a high-speed chess match,” said Kyle Cooley, an adviser to the robotics team from Jefferson High School in Monroe.

The two-day regional “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” (FIRST) robotics competition begins tomorrow in Ypsilanti, Mich. Many of the 62 competing teams - including groups from Monroe, Sylvania and Toledo - are practicing with their robots today at the site.

Teams of high school students worked with engineers from sponsoring companies to build a robot in six weeks. Each team received a box of materials for robot construction. They also may use a specified number of “free items” such as plywood planks, or aluminum sheets, and small parts bought from a catalog.

“I've learned pretty much everything there is to know about building a robot and I learned engineering principles,” Chris Woodard, 17, a member of the Sylvania team, said. His team has 19 students from Southview and Northview high schools who met a minimum of nine hours each week to work on their robot.

In the last week of the six-week building period, they met every day. Students and advisers kept in mind this year's competitive game while constructing their robots. The nature of the showdown changes each year. In the new game, two-robot alliances try to place balls in 180-pound barrels and move them to designated scoring zones.

“None of the robots looks anything alike, and the strategies may be different,” Tina Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Dana Corp., said. She works with a team that includes Toledo Technology Academy and Rogers High School students.

The 14-member Toledo team built a robot that can't pick up balls, but can grab two barrels at a time. “It's a narrow function for the robot, but we feel we can do it very well. It's a powerful robot we put together,” Bill Ferrara, an adviser at the academy, said.

Kirk Toczynski, a freshman at Toledo Technology Academy, said he is having a great time on the robotics team. “I've gotten to meet a lot of new friends,” he said.

The robot from Jefferson High School, built with the help of employees from Visteon Corp's plant in Monroe, came in fifth out of 57 teams at a regional competition in Cleveland last weekend.

“A last-second maneuver moved us into the finals,” said Kyle Cooley, a team adviser. “We're agile and can squeeze through small spaces.”

The Cleveland match was not so glorious for the Sylvania team, which was plagued by problems. Their robot can do it all: pick up balls and move barrels. But it had electrical glitches last weekend.

“We think we've got our bugs worked out now,” Mr. Woodard said.

Some teams will move on to a national match up next month in Orlando, Fla. The Toledo team automatically qualifies because it won the nationals last year.

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