Central High School's Robolancers team 321 had six weeks to design their manufacturing robot.
High school students throughout the region are headed this morning for Alabama to compete in a regional robotics championship.
Seven Philly school groups are headed south to compete, including Murrell Dobbins CTE High School, Baldie Middle School, Northeast High School and Central High School, the top four competitors from the city of Brotherly Love.
“We’re increasing the visibility of technical fields and the artificial intelligence world and making sure that our students are developing the skills necessary to work in a team,” says Velda Morris, Robotics Education Specialist for the School District of Philadelphia.
In her role, Morris oversees the district’s secondary robotics initiative, a pre-engineering vehicle for 60 schools, 1,000 students and 84 teachers in the city.
She’s participated with the robotics initiative since 2003, a project that is funded by the district and by various universities in the region. A modest budget, Morris says, pays for equipment and operations.
“When we started in 2004, it was with remote control robots. Now we’re talking about more programming, which requires purchasing new equipment for schools.”
Morris was also excited to share that the district had helped launch the state’s first underwater robotics platform this spring, just one of the several seasonal rounds of competition that it participates with.
This fall, students from around the region competed in a production and marketing-oriented competition designed by BEST Robotics, Inc., which stands for Boosting Engineering Science and Technology, an Auburn University-based nonprofit organization.
Students were required to develop a robot that is able to ensure quality assurance, and they were judged on facilitating projects, like a product marketing plan for bringing their robot to market.
Robotics and engineering teacher Daniel Ueda, who leads Central High School’s Robolancers Team 321 says his 29 students — a diverse group of 18 boys and 11 girls — learned mechanical design, electrical design, programming, construction, and more.
“They also learned how to work as a team over some very long hours,” he said.
Those long hours paid off.
After a six week design process constrained by strict rules — robots can weigh no more than 24lbs and must fit into a 2-foot by 2-foot by 2-foot box — the team took home top honors for robot performance against tough competition with 34 other groups at the High School of the Future last Wednesday.
Though the team took first in performance, students spent the past few days perfecting the robot for the next rounds, improving efficiency across its disciplines, Ueda says.
And even if they don’t win?
“We were [working at school] until 9 o’clock on Friday,” Ueda says. “The kids do everything they can to get the job done. Even if it doesn’t perform well, they know they did everything.”
“It’s a good lesson,” he says.