If you think robots might one day take over the world, you may have an active imagination or maybe you’ve just witnessed the Clash at Clarion, the Regional High School Robotics Competition Friday, Feb. 22, in the Gemmell Multi-Purpose Room.
There were 162 students from 13 different regional high schools forming 36 teams to compete for a variety of robot prizes such as the Judges Award which went to The Breakfast Club of Rocky Grove; the Design Award to DuBois 2 of DuBois High School; and the Excellence Award to SA-BOT-AGE OF North Clarion. Each team created their bots using a Vex Robot kit, but had the task of custom designing their bots however they saw fit in order to score the most points and endure a day's worth of match-ups.
Finally, the Champion bots were narrowed down from a day of grueling two-minute matches where students from four teams must demonstrate their robot's autonomous abilities – in other words, it's ability to perform a programmed function. In the same matchup, teams also must have their robots perform (via remote control) tasks to earn points, all while the clock is ticking under laser lights and the screams of cheering fans.
One fan and fellow competitor, Dan Gatesman, could be heard shouting "Nice autonomous!" ringside during the last match of the day because brainy encouragement is par for the course at a robotics competition.
Teams also form alliances with other teams to maximize on gaining points during matchups.
Jody Strausser, associate professor of Computer Information Science at Clarion University, said often teams form alliances with teams from other schools after seeing the other school's robot perform a skill better than their bot and vice versa.
After the last match of the day, the RobotChicks from North Clarion found their robot
climbing to the center tier inside the matchup ring – the place you want to be when
the clock runs out. SA-BOT-AGE claimed the other champion spot.
The ladies of the RobotChicks said robotics was something they sort of stumbled into as an elective course at North Clarion.
"It was just an elective we could take," said Abby Gatesman of North Clarion High School.
But Gatesman and her teammates agreed that it's a fun hobby that they'd like to continue.
"We're going to take the class next year," said Haley Bauer from North Clarion High School.
Other schools don't offer electives in robotics but had students take up the hobby on their own, which was the case for River Perry and teammate Daniel Fisher from Cranberry High School.
"It just kind of seemed fun," Perry said.
But building and programming a robot is time consuming as the Cranberry boys found out.
"It's hard for us because we don't have a class," Fisher said.
There's also a lot of trial and error that goes into robot construction. Blaze Welpott and Hope Spuck from DuBois Area High School had just lost a match but were happy because they discovered a new way for their bot to earn points in the ring.
"We're really excited. We just found out how we can hit the third flag (the highest
flag at the competition)," Spuck said.
Like the North Clarion students, Spuck and Welpott found robotics when they opted to take an engineering class at DuBois Area High School.
"We were happy to jump on that train," Welpott said.
Strausser explained that it's important for us to start thinking differently about robotics.
"Everything is moving more toward automation," Strausser said. "People will be repairing the robots that do the assembly line work."
Strausser was awarded the Volunteer Award at the competition but he was quick to recognize the many volunteers from the education and computer science departments who made the event possible.
"Without them this would not have happened," Strausser said.
Area high schools that participated were:
- North Clarion
- Redbank Valley
- Oil City
- Valley Grove
- Franklin MS Field Setters and Helpers
- Venango Technology Center
- East Forest
- West Forest