Area high schools get in gear for TSTC robotics competition [Valley Morning Star, Harlingen, Texas]
(Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, TX) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Oct. 22--HARLINGEN -- Meet Sirkitt. His friends, Dante Hernandez, Zachary McNutt, Paloma Flores and several others at Early College High School are preparing him to compete in the RGV BEST Robotics Competition at Texas State Technical College.
BEST stands for Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology.
McNutt, 17, a member of Joe Rigdon's ECHS Robotics Club, said he's nervous.
"I think we have a legitimate chance of winning and going to state (contest) but I am nervous because this is my last year," McNutt said. "We were close to winning the past two years."
Robotics teams from Harlingen High School, Harlingen High School South and ECHS will compete in the event Saturday with the robots they've been working on for six weeks. The Harlingen school district has declared this is Robot Week, school district spokeswoman Maritza Gallaga said.
She said each day this week, stories would be posted on the school district's website about the different teams. At the end of the week there would be a big pep rally at ECHS.
"It's like a really big thing at some other schools, so they kind of look forward to it and they're fixing up their robots to go and kind of compete," she said. "They're putting the final touches."
The event has two parts, Eladio Jaimez, TSTC spokesman, said.
"The robotic teams will make presentations to a panel, almost like a sales pitch," he said. Later, the teams will compete with their robots to perform predetermined functions that include lifting objects and putting them into a container.
About 20 teams would compete, Jaimez said.
Vincent Trevino, HHS senior and engineering club parliamentarian, called the event exciting and nerve-wracking "because your work will be tested," he said.
Sirkutt will perform a simple task simulating one step to build a transistor, using a claw to lift a stick from one hole into a larger hole in a PVC pipe. Some holes are vertical, others horizontal, but it's all done with a CPU processor and a controller, ECHS student Dante Hernandez, 17, said.
"This is our base," he said, pointing to a wooden box with wet blue paint and a metal contraption sitting on top. The robot's metal jointed arm with a claw hand would be attached to one end.
The CPU, or brain as McNutt called it, lay next to the arm, with wires connected to it.
"The brain, or the CPU, controls all the motors in the robot, tells them to move," McNutt said. "The controller operates it using a link to the CPU via Wi-Fi."
Building the robot was a way to apply textbook knowledge to real-life experience, said Paloma Flores, 17, who documented the engineering process in a notebook. She saw the project as a way of promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers.
"We get textbook but not hands-on experience," she said. "This way we can take our book learning and transfer it to physical experience."
Rigdon said the robot construction was a student-led project, which is also called project-based learning, a concept the district emphases.
"I would say the students have worked very hard in all areas," he said. "The students were given a task to build a computer, to figure out how to go into course design and build it and make it work."
Flores said she has enjoyed the experience, especially "the brainstorming and then the finished project," she said.
Hernandez said he enjoyed the people with whom he worked.
"I enjoyed our time, working together to achieve a common goal," he said.
(c)2013 Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas)
Visit Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas) at www.valleymorningstar.com
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