A&T School ready for robotics competition

Drill in hand, robotics team member Scott Evensen leans in to adjust the wiring of teams creation. -
Drill in hand, robotics team member Scott Evensen leans in to adjust the wiring of teams creation.
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MARYSVILLE About six weeks ago, it was contained in four boxes of what appeared to be unrelated junk.
Student Scott Evensen said a core group of about a half-dozen students along with several teachers and advisors spent every spare moment for six weeks turning those bits and pieces into an actual, functioning robot. Those moments included hours of work after school and on weekends.
In the end, those efforts will be on display in Tacoma on March 20. Thats when the Arts and Technology High School robotics team will get a chance to show their stuff in the first round of the international FIRST robotics competition.
This is the rookie year for the Marysville squad and the first to represent the city.
Its been about like Apollo 13, said Totem Middle School manufacturing teacher Mike Fitzpatrick. You cant believe the pressure that has come out of this thing. Its been a real grinder.
They learned an awful lot and held up to that pressure, Arts and Technology teacher Katherine Jordan said of her students.
Ill be honest, said Don Prier, an engineer and former math teacher who helped as an advisor to the A & T team. Hes worked with FIRST teams at different schools outside the district in the past. This team has been the hardest to work with, but its also been one of the best and that comes from talent.
That talent led to the creation of a 90-pound, triangle shaped contraption, about 60 inches high at its apex. Controls and motors sit at the bottom of the triangle and on the back end of the robot. The front features the double prongs of a pulley-operated forklift. To an uninitiated eye, the control wiring looks awfully intricate. Scott and others downplay its complexity.
Actually, the hard part has been the fabricating, insisted student Gabe Spencer.
We had a diagram and its pretty simple, said Shaun Hensler. Shaun was in charge of the computer programming that goes into running and controlling the robot.
Without sounding as if he was bragging in the least, Shaun talked about teaching himself the CAD programs he needed to learn. Last week, having finished the major programming, he did have a word of warning for the rest of his teammates.
If theres any major changes in the design, Ill kill all of you, Shaun said.
Under competition rules, the team needed to pack and seal the robot up into a crate headed for Tacoma no later than Feb. 12. Last week, students were rushing to put the finishing touches on their creation.
For example, rough edges had to be smoothed out. Some wanted to paint the robot. All the wiring had to be secured in place. Some team members wanted more practice time controlling and operating the robot, but werent sure they were going to get it.
The completion requires the robots grab large balls from an elevated platform, which is one reason for the forklift design of the A & T team creation. The balls are about the size of a large beach ball, but a lot heavier.
After grabbing the balls, robots and their controllers have to carry or push the balls around a track. Points are awarded for both how fast and for how many balls teams can manipulate around the track. The A & T team decided to hijack the controller from an X-Box video game system to manipulate their robot.
Do students believe all the effort they put in was worth it?
Scott mentioned gaining a chance at FIRSTs numerous college scholarships as part of his motivation.
But I think what drew me in was the robot part of it, he said.
I wanted the experience of building something that could actually do something, said student Nolan Erickson.
No matter how things turn out in Tacoma next month, most of the team members said they would be willing to try again next year.
The school can only get better, summed up student Jonny Goldenberger.

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