By Danny Restivo
For 14 years, the Girard High School robotics team has used ingenuity and creativity to capture awards from throughout the United States.
While the accolades symbolize the team’s hard work, they are not the driving factor for the current group’s success.
“The whole goal is to get better,” said senior Megan Avey.
On Saturday, Avey and 30 other members of the RoboCats will attempt to accomplish that goal when they take their talents to Rochester, N.Y., for the “Rochester Ruckus” robotics competition.
This event marks the last time STEMCat-13, the team’s robot, will participate in a competition this year.
Every year the RoboCats design a new robot that must complete different tasks than the robot from the prior year. In January, FIRST, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, which is the governing body behind the robotics competitions, will require new standards for high school robotics teams around the country.
“This robot has performed really well,” said senior Sam Horne, “It’s been an excellent design process.”
Horne played an integral part in designing STEMCat-13. He is responsible for the robot’s electrical wiring and ensuring the machine does what it’s commanded to do. Although he enjoyed building STEMCat-13, he won’t miss the frustration of troubleshooting its wiring.
“It took a lot of fine tuning,” he said. “It’s constantly been refined and reworked.”
Senior Anthony Esposito is responsible for construction and design of the 120-pound robot. He also assisted Horne with the wiring, and like the electronics, the engineering aspect can be just as frustrating, he said.
“A lot of it is just trial and error, but the more competitions we participated in, the more we learned,” he said.
Saturday’s event is similar to a three-on-three basketball game, they said. STEMCat-13 will be placed on a team with two other robots that are trying to score more baskets than three other opposing robots. The game will test STEMCat 13’s agility, speed and ability to lob a mini- basketball into a hoop, and its ability to work cohesively with other robots.
“The game is designed for students to learn how to work with other teams,” said Judy Barber, Girard’s robotics coach.
The robot uses a shovel-like apparatus to scoop up the ball, before it is placed on an elevator and shot out of a hopper. The robot uses a wheel, similar to a baseball pitching machine, to shoot the basketball into a hoop.
While the robot is competing on the court, a team member remotely controls the robot’s movements and shots.
Avey, who does public relations for the RoboCats, said the process takes a team effort to ensure the robot is fully functional, which is why the Girard group has been successful. In May the team received runner-up at a competition in Pittsburgh that included 40 teams from around the country.
At the regional event, the RoboCats also won the Engineering Excellence Award.
Avey, Horne and Esposito said they are looking forward to their final year on the robotics team, as well as building another robot for next year.
“It’s been fun,” said Avey. “We’ll be excited when we get to build our new robot in January, though.”