Thursday, February 07, 2002

Robot builders working fast

Team's already qualified for nationals

By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BEVIS — Imagine being assigned to build a robot, using only odds and ends in your garage. Twenty-six Northwest High School students are racing the clock to build such a robot for a national engineering contest.

        For the fourth year, Northwest is fielding a team in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition. Northwest took second in the nation last year and has already qualified for national competition based on last year's performance.

        “Its focus is to inspire students to pursue education and careers in science and technology,” said Dave Campbell, engineering tech prep teacher at Northwest High School's Career Center. “The contest is different every year, so even veterans like ourselves don't have much advantage over rookie teams.”

        The students get six weeks to build a 130-pound robotic gladiator that sends soccer balls into an octagonal goal to earn points. They must finish by Feb. 19.

        Each team received a kit that includes cordless drills in parts form, window lift motors, a power seat motor, a motor system from a Power Wheels car, electrical wiring and wheelchair wheels.

        “I really believe this contest, on a small scale, completely models a company's engineering process from concept to completion,” Mr. Campbell said. “That's what we try to teach kids — to think creatively, critically and to have tangible results.”

        Students began in January, using reams of paper to design the robot.

        “It's pretty challenging,” said Randy Waters, a 17-year-old junior. “It's a lot of trial and error. Sometimes, it gets frustrating.”

        “Accepting that your idea won't work is kind of hard,” added Mike Berry, another 17-year-old junior.

        The team has received support from NASA's John Glenn Research Center, which awarded it a $6,000 grant. Northwest students have also benefited from local financial support, resources or mentors from Process Plus, a process engineering firm in Forest Park, Procter & Gamble, and Miami University, to name a few.

        Northwest High School's FIRST team still needs money for the entry fee and travel costs to national competition in Orlando, Fla. by Feb. 15. Call Dave Campbell at 742-6357.


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