Wednesday, November 18, 2009
DALLAS -- The new Dallas High School robotics team recruits were spinning their wheels for a while Thursday -- or at least, they wished they could.
The team's recently assembled practice robot was giving the team trouble: It wouldn't move.
Advisor Lee Jones said the inactivity was a temporary issue as the team figured out how to program the robot to respond to commands. The team started building the robot at twice-weekly meetings on Nov. 3 and the laptop
running the programming software had just arrived Thursday.
"There isn't much going on at the moment," said senior and team co-captain Glen Nicol, who spent the first part of Thursday's meeting with his eyes glued to the
laptop screen. "I just need to figure out the programming."
He did. About halfway through the meeting, team members witnessed the small robot's first movement. After moving the robot, the team was soon able to make it perform several other tasks, including using the arm attachment.
Eventually, the practice robot will be dissembled and rebuilt to specifications of the contests the team wants to enter this winter.
The Dallas team and the competitions are part of a nationwide program called For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST. The program objective is to promote interest in engineering and technology through competitive robotic challenges.
FIRST Tech Challenge releases a list of tasks robots must complete in competitions at the beginning of the school year. The teams' challenge is design robots to perform those moves with the most efficiency.
Dallas' team has until January to design its competition robot. The practice version is just an appetizer to the real thing, team secretary Mary Isham said. The contest robot will be much bigger and more complicated.
"This (robot) is just a way to figure out problems," Isham said.
This year's competition requires the robots to find and pick up a ball and toss it through a net, among other challenges. Team members will be designing, building, testing and rebuilding until each piece works and cooperates with the others.
Isham, a senior, said the team's first experience with how the robots work was a field trip in late October to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Portland, where they watched robots negotiate the assigned tasks. They learned what worked, what didn't, and assembled ideas to take back to their work table.
The group isn't just concentrating on robotics design, but also assuring the club has enough money to keep going this year and into the future.
Local businesses have provided about $1,600 so far. They need about $3,000 to provide good financial footing for the club.
Jones wants to purchase more robot kits -- with only one, the work area is crowded with eight students. The machines can be dissembled and reused for future contests.
Club organization and a delayed shipment of the robot kit had the team off to a slow start, but the team members are confident they will be able to catch up.
"We're a couple of months behind, but it's not going to stop us," Jones said.
For more information or to help sponsor the team, contact Lee Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.