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The Carroll County High School robotics team begins its fifth year of competition with 15 students, two coaches and one goal: victory at the First Robotics Competition.
Armed with an array of wrenches, cutting torches, computer chips and wires, students will take a robot from the planning stage to live competition in a matter of weeks. This team effort encourages collaboration, innovation and discipline while relying on a foundation of science and mathematics.
“It entails more than putting together pieces of metal,” said coach Adam Stockhausen. “Students are involved in everything from the cutting and shaping of metal to wiring the motor. They work with circuits, turn wrenches and program the computer that runs the robot. We are trying to prepare students for the future, and this is the future.”
The FIRST Robotics Competition (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) brings together teams of students and their robots from all over the country.
The robots must be designed to complete a certain task, like climbing or throwing an object. Students control the robot in live competition against other robots, where points are earned based on the robot’s performance.
According to the organization’s website (usfirst.org), the FIRST Robotics Competition was founded in 1989 by Dean Kamen “to transform our culture by creating a world where science and technology are celebrated and where young people dream of becoming science and technology leaders.” The FIRST competition engages more than 300,000 students each year from dozens of countries around the world.
The competition’s task is revealed to teams each January.
Last year, students had to design a robot that could navigate a playing field in three-versus-three competition while throwing Frisbees at suspended targets.
Teams earned more points for higher targets. The year before that, the game was basketball.
“The task is always a surprise,” Stockhausen said. “In addition to the main goal, there is often a bonus objective, such as having the robot climb a jungle gym. It really stretches students to think outside of the box.”
Similar to real engineers, students must work within time, budget and design constraints. FIRST sets the design parameters, such as the width and height that the robot can be.
Most robots are around one square meter at the base and one meter tall. Some robots have arms for lifting, throwing and climbing while others focus on launching objects, depending on the task.
“The financial side of design is just as important as the technical side,” Stockhausen said. “Our community sponsors have been critical to our success. They not only helped found the robotics team but also have sustained us over these five years. Without them, we would not be able to exist as a team.”
Dow Corning, North American Stainless and the Carrollton Subway have all contributed to the CCHS robotics team.
“We want this to be one of the premier competitive teams at the school,” Stockhausen said. “These students are going to take the skills that they have learned here to the workplace, and that will help both the school and the community.”
Carl Roberts is director of public relations for Carroll County Public Schools.