Photo by Joe Chitwood
Monte McNeil, at right, shows an official his robot is under the height limit.
The judges watch as the Ravenna team competes, with their robot lifting items over the bar.
Hershey’s Robotics Club got their first taste of competition Jan. 28 at Ravenna High School.There were 15 schools with 45 teams in the VEX Robotics Invitational Tournament.
Hershey had some success. Their three teams finished 27th, 41st and 44th.
The 16-member robotics club, led by Hershey Science Teacher Jeff Brittenham, built their robots during the first semester, but this was their first competition.
Brittenham said it was a learning experience.
“It’s a real eye-opener,” he said. “We have been working on our robots in class and I have been harping and harping on what we need to do, but I can only harp so much.”
Hershey High School Principal Jeff Steinbeck said Brittenham is a great teacher.
“I noted the other night that after school students were still in his class room working on their projects,” Steinbeck said. “Any time you see students staying in a class after hours on their own, you know he’s got a good thing going.”
Ravenna alumni Jim Musil, who now teaches in Omaha, owns the field equipment used in Nebraska tournaments.
He said robotics is more than a game.
“The kids learn so many different things from these events -- teamwork, learning how to build, design and program and getting along with other teams,” Musil said.
The energy level of the participants and spectators rivals that of any organized sports.
The audience yells, applauds and cheers for their favorite team as they try to outmaneuver and score more points during the three-minute rounds.
According to VEX competition rules, the ‘Robotics Competition StarStruck” game is played on a 12’x12’ field. Two alliances – one red and one blue – composed of two teams each, compete in each match.
The object of the game is to attain a highest score by scoring stars and cubes in the zone and hanging robots on a hanging bar.
Winning requires a well-designed robot controlled by a proficient operator.
After each match, teams go to the pits to make physical modifications, repairs and program changes based on the success or failure during the match.
After the teams compete in six preliminary rounds, the top 10 teams form an alliance to for the finals.
Hershey team member Monte McNeil was amazed.
“It is really interesting and not something I thought I would ever do,” he said. “We are definitely trying to learn from other people, make friends and learn some new designs. Hopefully we can take some of it home and do some changes to make us a little more competitive.”
Teammate Easton Clark said the competition was very intense.
“They are a lot better than we are, we need a better robot,” he said. “I know they got a lot more experience but we are going to go home and try to make some changes.”