Robotics team grows, engineers, competes moreArmed with a sharp understanding of math and science, as well as a knack for imaginative fun, a group of River Falls High School students founded a Robotics Club last year, grew it since then, and competed as Team Reach for the third time early this year.
By: Phil Pfuehler, River Falls Journal
Armed with a sharp understanding of math and science, as well as a knack for imaginative fun, a group of River Falls High School students founded a Robotics Club last year, grew it since then, and competed as Team Reach for the third time early this year.
Though not a school-sanctioned group, the Robotics Club started at RFHS with seven students and has grown to 16. The group casually entered a state-level championship robot-building competition in 2011 and earned a 3rd place. This year Team Reach scored a 2nd out of 24 teams at a similar contest during February in Savage, Minn.
The team received a trophy and each person was awarded a medal. The club placed the unusual-looking overall trophy into the school’s display case, hoping it will generate more interest in the growing club.
The group traveled to a Wisconsin competition since last year, too, but agrees “it didn’t go so hot” due to faulty electronics. The team members say they aim to attend one more competition this year.
The non-profit organization Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) organizes the championships to encourage young people to become leaders in science and technology. The local students heard about FIRST last year and decided to form a group and innovate.
Team Reach members say they were better prepared for competition the second and third times around. The concept: Groups with a maximum of 10 people get a package of high-tech parts, and whichever team builds the best ‘bot’ -- wins.
After a judge suggested it last year, they produced an engineering book to submit with their robot. They also pored over the rules and long equipment list.
Their scissor-lift robotic creation stood six-and-a-half feet tall. It picked up racquetballs and placed them into a crate then lifted the container up high.
The team and club, comprised of all ages of high school students, gather twice a week on their own time to share ideas, build things and test concepts.
They meet in senior Jack Kilian’s garage, coached and gently supervised by his father, Joe, whom everybody says doesn’t impose his ideas on them but does make sure they’re not doing “something stupid.”
The team tells about the club’s creations during the past year. They’ve built small electronics, a remote-controlled car, and a hovercraft for which they can’t find a big enough propeller. The group demonstrated one of its inventions during the 2011 Pep Fest: A marshmallow-shooting cannon and gun.
Club members call it the first public display of the Robotics Club. See a YouTube of the club experimenting with the marshmallow shooting:
The students say they want to continue growing the club and competing in the robot builds. Several members are seniors and will roll off the team at the end of this year, but many students from other grades, even an 8th grader in the mix, will take over the Robotics Club that spawned Team Reach.
Kilian is one of those seniors and speaks for the club when he says it is currently looking for new space to use for meeting and an advisor or mentor. It also needs funding to pay for practice-project materials, competition entry fees and travel expenses.
When the Robotics Club meets, the members must come up with the components for whatever they want to try building.
Each one usually has a thing or two to contribute -- and a project comes together. But the members know that to achieve longevity and attend more competitions, it must seek strong resources.
Kilian said the club would appreciate hearing from anyone with ideas about a place to meet, a person to coach or ways to raise funds. He said people could e-mail his dad, the current club contact person, at: firstname.lastname@example.org.