Robotics Club created at Elmwood PDF Print E-mail
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD Sentinel Education Editor   
Wednesday, 01 May 2013 10:00
JERRY CITY - A new club at Elmwood High School has students building, programming and operating a robot while learning about engineering and teamwork.
Advisor and teacher Eric Poffenbaugh joked that he had 30 kids show up for a planning meeting because he had pizza. There are a dozen students who have stayed, from freshmen to seniors.
"This is the first year for having that club," said Poffenbaugh.
In early April, eight club members traveled to Marion for the National Robotics Challenge.
They competed in the preliminary round April 11, and qualified for the quarterfinals that weekend in which they placed fifth.
The winner went on to national competition.
The team's robot had to pick up corn hole bags - there were 100 on the course - and drop them into a truck. The more dropped into the truck, the more points were scored.
The minimum the team has scored is 75 points. Each bag is worth five points.
That part of the competition was by radio control. It was preceded by 15 seconds of autonomous control to see how the robot moved.
Jordan Andrich, a sophomore in the club, said he enjoys it "because I like to learn how to build things."
The robot comes in pieces and each team has to design it to do what competition requires.
"You have to tell it exactly what to do," said junior Tyler Smith about programming the robot.
It took the group about six weeks to build the robot.
As for the competition, a lot of schools had more money, had a lot more people, and had a lot more students supporting their teams, said Smith.
Several schools entered two teams.
Norwalk brought six or seven teams, said Poffenbaugh.
The competition didn't always run smoothly for Elmwood's team.
The team had tested its robot on the smooth gym floor at the school, but found the competition would be on a foam flooring.
Poffenbaugh compared what the team members had to do to a scene from the movie "Apollo 13:" Dump everything left in the kit on the ground and say "this is what we have to work with."
Allen Dyar, a senior in the group, plans to continue his interest in engineering when he attends Kent State University in the fall.
"I just like messing with robots," he explained about this interest in the club,
Smith added that his incentive comes from programming. "And it's a robot. That's kind of cool."
Elmwood received a $1,600 grant to purchase the kit and compete this year.
Both Andrich and Smith plan to return to the club next year.
"I just hope it opens up their eyes to what's out there," said Poffenbaugh, adding that there is a growing demand for technicians, especially in renewable energy.
"It's not really happening a lot in this area," he said about the club. The closest school with a similar program is Upper Sandusky.
He hopes to expand the club to the middle school next year.
"I'm looking forward to next year," said Smith. "Everyone is."
Heinze Insurance in Wayne is this year's club sponsor.
The kit alone costs $1,500, Poffenbaugh said.
Smith said the team is shooting for "bigger and better" next year.

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