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Robots-R-US programs students for the future

By Megan Kennedy mkennedy@civitasmedia.com

July 8, 2014

Preble County’s own robotics team, Robots-R-US, was born six years ago, and began competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) five years ago, and has gained momentum in the field since.


Robots-R-US met with Preble County Commissioners, Wednesday, July 2, to introduce themselves and their accomplishments.


The organization, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), developed by Dean Kamen roughly 20 years ago, believed students needed to fully understand technology instead of just being able to use it, according to team captain, Spencer Landon. “We have these smartphones and such now, but how do they work? Why do when I touch the screen, things happen, who programmed this operating system, things like that, things that are important towards a career in technology, and things that are important later on in your life,” said Landon.


Landon describes FRC as a sport, but a sport for the mind. “The robotics competition accomplishes the idea of recognition of science and technology really well, because it provides something fun and accomplishable. There’s a time limit, and there’s a lot of things that have to happen and you start from nothing,” said Landon. “So, it’s like any business. You’re making a product, you’re testing it, you’re putting it into the real world, into production, into the competition where you’re competing with other products.”


Understanding the process of manufacturing the robot, fundraising, and ultimately entering the final product into competition teaches the members of the team entrepreneurship and pride, according to Landon.


The competition aims to have all teams on the same playing field, to make the competition as even as possible. All teams are to use the same parts, same manual, same time frame, and same budget. When rules begin to be released to the teams, the information is fed through a live webcast, so all teams can access the same information at the same time. The annual event sports a different “game” each year, forcing teams to adjust their robots to play the given game. Rules and regulations are released to the 2,500 teams, globally, on the same date at the same time. The release of that information begins the six-week preparation period for teams, to prepare for competition. Robots-R-US won 6th place in the State of Ohio during the FRC competition this year out of roughly 60 competing robots, featured from all over the state.


Members of the team, high school students from Preble County, as well as Richmond High School, gather once a month from January to April to meet, discuss, mock up models, plan, develop, and implement their ideas into the best robot they can make for competition.


Robert Unruh, the team’s senior mentor said, “There’s just a lot of kids on the team that just go to school every day and have fun; and that’s what we’re all about is teaching them how to do things, build things, use their troubleshooting skills. If these guys get a job at Henny Penny … they know all about wiring, they know all about the mechanics, they know all about what it takes to troubleshoot, they know all about problems.”


Members said though the majority of their involvement on the team is engineering-related, there are spots on the team for those who are not engineering-inclined. “You don’t just get things that are STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related, you can be on the team without actually building the robot,” saidone student. “You can be on the team and be in charge of the websites or make designs or just make videos, or even be in publications, just things like that, dealing with people.”


“If there isn’t a job on the team, we’ll find one for you,” said member Jordan Haney. “There’s no reason why everyone shouldn’t be on the team.” Haney, second in the United States for his CAD (Computer and Design) specialty, is new to the team.


To join, students, team mentors, or sponsors, contact Catherine Borucki at cboruicki@embargmail.com or Bob Unruh at Eaton Computer, 500 Hallmark Drive in Eaton or 937-456-4332. There is no cost to members to be apart of the team, except traveling costs to and from competitions.


FIRST strives to teach students the importance of science and technology, and to give them a platform to flex their talents. FIRST moves to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” according to their website.