Robotics team learning at new level
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Mar 25, 2013 | 973 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Students become ‘Bowbots’
KATIE LASSITER, Bridgette Jaskowski and Kody Futcher watch their team’s robot during a test run. Students designed and programmed their robot to complete challenges in an obstacle course. Banner photo, JOYANNA WEBER
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Math, teamwork, creativity and a well-known toy are the ingredients Bowman Hills School’s robotics team, Bowbots, are using to prepare for an upcoming competition.

The competition will take place on April 14 at Southern Adventist University. Last year, a team attended simply to be an exhibition not to receive points. Bowman Hills principal and sponsor for the team, Matt Korp, said the contest at Southern has four components — teamwork, research project, robot design and robot challenge. Points are accrued in each category and the top scorer goes on to the North American competition.

This year’s team is made up of select seventh- and eighth-grade students.

An enjoyment of Legos, competition or robotics is what led the students to secure a spot on the team.

“I love Legos and the team-building stuff; to me it’s just exciting to go to these places and compete with all these people,” team member Katie Lassiter said.

“I like robots,” teammate Bridgette Jaskowski said.

Hunter Lane of the team said he had experience working with Lego robotics sets. Teammate Kody Futcher said he enjoys the team because it is the closest thing he can do to battling robots.

“What I love about Bowbots is you can come together and connect with more of your friends, and work together to create this amazing project,” Katie said.

Bridgette said the team has a lot of fun preparing for the competition.

Solving problems while designing and programing the robot is a part of the learning and preparation process for the team. There is a lot of math involved in design and programing of the robot, Katie said.

Sometimes the robot does not always respond the way the students’ think it should based on how it was programed.

“It’s just interesting to see what it does. When you program it, you get to see what you created and sometimes when you program it and it doesn’t do exactly what you wanted, you actually get another result and sometimes it’s a better idea,” Hunter said.

“It’s fun to see what you create, come to life,” Kody said.

While for some it will be their first time competeing in such a large event, others do have some experience.

Katie said even though she has competed in non-robotics related competitions before, she is nervous about the upcoming event.

“This is our (this year’s team) first time, so it’s pretty scary,” Kody said.

Bridgette said she is not worried about how the team will do because members have been working hard, and the school has done well in the past. Hunter said he had been in a lot of other types of competitions so he was not worried.

The local school is a part of a First Lego League specifically designed for Seventh-day Adventist students through Southern Adventist University. Bowman Hills has grades from pre-K through eight.

“Because we’re Seventh-day Adventists, a lot of the competitions that are on Saturdays we don’t compete or participate in because we don’t do business stuff on Saturdays,” parent volunteer Lori Futcher said. “So the local Adventist university, Southern Adventist University, actually created an Adventist robotic league, which is a part of the Lego League.”

Korp said the league has friendly competition with almost every team walking away with some type of award.

During the robot obstacle course challenge the team receives points for each task the robot completes successfully, parent volunteer Robert Futcher said. He said the obstacle course really focuses on being able to program the robot successfully.

“It’s trying to get the kids to figure it out without us doing it. We’re just here to kind of help them, while they have to figure this out,” Futcher said.

On the robotics obstacle course challenge, teams have three tries to score points then the scores from the tries are combined to determine a total.

This year’s theme for the First Lego League is “Senior Solutions.” Each group has to create a solution to a problem that an elderly person might face. In preparation for the project, team members interview a senior citizen about health issues they might be facing. Katie said the person they interviewed “was actually pretty healthy.”

From their interview, the Bowbots decided to do a project focusing on the deterioration of the knee. Further research showed that current knee replacements are largely successful, causing the team to begin considering other options.

The students then settled on My Personal Information, an advanced electronic device to help the elderly who struggle with memory loss and losing things.

“There is a little camera that can scan your house, so if you lose anything it will have a picture of your house and it can tell you where it is,” Katie said. “It will also have these little trackers that you can connect and reuse.”

Katie said these tracking devices could be connected to items the person frequently misplaces. It will then be able to tell the person where the item is. The team built a prototype of their device out of Legos.

Kody said the group began working on the project in early February. He said he liked the “futuristic” aspects of the project.

“It’s great that they’re getting those hands-on robotics but they are also getting research experience,” Lori Futcher said

To present their research to the judges, the students are creating a skit. Bowbots has scored first place in the research category every year it has competed, except for one.