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Published: Saturday, 1/22/2005

Robotics team has designs on solutions to aid disabled

BY MIKE JONES
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Members of the state champion Circuit Breakers from Sylvania are, from left, Brian Sherman, 10; Tyler Savino, 11; Kevin David, 13; Rowan Shaw, 10, standing; Aaron Matesz, 11, and Ian Shaw, 14, with the team's winning robot on the table. Members of the state champion Circuit Breakers from Sylvania are, from left, Brian Sherman, 10; Tyler Savino, 11; Kevin David, 13; Rowan Shaw, 10, standing; Aaron Matesz, 11, and Ian Shaw, 14, with the team's winning robot on the table.
DIANE HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

A team of youngsters formed to program small robots to perform functions that someday might aid people with disabilities is headed to Atlanta where they will pit their robot against the entries of 74 other winners of state or international competitions.

While getting ready, members of the Circuit Breakers, based in Sylvania, also are looking for funding sources that might be used to finance changes in downtown Sylvania they've suggested to City Council.

The group made presentations to council and its safety committee before it went to a competition earlier this month in Dayton. The team took first place with the programmed robot made of LEGO blocks.

The theme of this year's competition is "No Limits," said Ian Shaw, 14, a team member. In researching the project, team members decided to seek real-world solutions for what they saw as problems for the disabled.

"We had to recognize the problems and then find a technical solution for it,'' Kevin David, 13, said, but political solutions also might be available, team members thought.

Aaron Matesz, 11, another member of the team, said the boys got in wheelchairs and visited sites in the Sylvania area, "and it wasn't pleasant."

They told council members that the decorative brickwork of downtown Sylvania's sidewalks might be attractive, but it makes wheelchair use difficult. They suggested it should be replaced with a smooth surface.

Among other suggestions the group made to council was that pedestrian signals at downtown crosswalks should include a signal that can be heard to assist the blind in knowing when it is safe to cross.

Read Backus, chairman of the safety committee, said he is in contact with team members to see how best some of their suggestions can be implemented.

Tyler Savino, 11, and Rowan Shaw, 10, said the team is investigating what grants the city might apply for to help carry out their ideas. Another member of the team is Brian Sherman, 10.

Dr. Backus and police Chief Gerald Sobb said the police department has people who have learned how to apply for grants. They will work with the Circuit Breakers to submit grant applications once specific projects are identified.

While that is in the works, the boys are honing the skills of their robot for an appearance in the Georgia Dome April 21-23.

The competition involves programming a robot for tasks such as delivering food to a table made to the scale of the robot, moving a computer disc, picking up eyeglasses and moving them, and other ordinary tasks.

Lori Shaw, the coach and mother of two members, said they will compete against teams from the other 49 states and teams that have won competitions in 25 countries.

The state competition was held at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. Three other Toledo-area teams received awards. They are LEGO My Robot, the Brick Busters, and the Green Gears.

Contact Mike Jones at:

mjones@theblade.com

or 419-724-6096.



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