SWHS robotics team competes in regional event

By Kim Gorman - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Thu., Jan. 19, 2012
SWHS Bobcats VEX Robotics team members prepare for the regional competition. Photos by Kim Gorman.
SWHS Bobcats VEX Robotics team members prepare for the regional competition. Photos by Kim Gorman.

South Windsor High School’s Bobcats Robotics team faced stiff competition in the regional VEX Robotics Qualifier held at Manchester High School on Jan. 14. The event drew teams from all over New England to compete for a chance to qualify for the U.S National and World Championships.

According to SWHS senior Viren Shinde, the goal for each team is to score the most points during a competition. This was achieved by a driver controlling a robot which was designed, constructed and operated to place as many balls as possible into barrels, or goals, with its claw. The teams compete against one another by forming alliances with other teams.

“There are four robots on the field at a time,” said Bobcats Robotics team advisor and SWHS teacher Norman Smith. “Each robot is a team and two teams become an alliance. The winning teams in qualifying matches choose their alliance.”

In addition to a driver, each team requires programmers and builders. Sophomore Jackie Gaston is a programmer for the Bobcats and the only female team member. She became interested in robotics after watching her older brother compete in the FIRST Lego League, which is a version of robotics that uses Lego bricks to build robots.

“I’m also one of the most organized people on the team,” she said. “I keep them on track.”

SWHS has two robotics teams. FIRST Robotics (an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”) robots are the largest and most expensive to build, since they must be manufactured. VEX Robotics are assembled by hand from different parts, making them more affordable to build.

Smith said freshmen and sophomore students usually start out on the VEX team. Once they learn about programming and building robots without manufacturing, they graduate to FIRST.

“As kids get more involved, they recognize the importance of building a good robot,” said Smith. “They find out what their robots can and can’t do, and work toward improving them.”

Shinde, who has been involved with the robotics team since he was a freshmen, said that the learning process is intuitive. “Experimenting and improvising are a big part of it. Mr. Smith helps out with the more complex mechanical process,” he said.

The SWHS team did not qualify for the national or world championships this year, but the Bobcats are gearing up for the next big VEX Robotics competition, scheduled to take place at Central Connecticut State University in March.


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