Girard's ROBOCATS gear up for robotic rivals

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Austin Wagner, left, a sophomore at Girard High School, and senior Sam Horne, center, assemble parts for the RoboCats’ new robot under the supervision of Ashraf Hadi , team adviser. The school’s robotics team has been working for six weeks to build its new robot, which will compete beginning in March.

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Freshman Aaron Scott checks his computer while working with the robotics team’s new robot. Every year, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), the governing body behind the robotics competitions, requires new standards for the nation’s high school teams.

By Danny Restivo


“We’re hoping to get a good amount of work finished today,” said senior Sam Horne.

Horne was one of 15 students from the RoboCats, the high school’s robotics team, turning screws, assembling aluminum frames and tinkering with the electronics in an effort to complete the team’s 2013 robot by today.

Every year, For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), the governing body behind the robotics competitions, requires new standards for high school teams throughout the country. Based on the directives, which were issued Jan. 5, the team had six weeks to build the robot.

“There’s no way we can leave until it’s finished,” said Horne.

For more than a month, the team has brainstormed, built and tested a robot for various assigned tasks. They include climbing a pyramid-like jungle gym and shooting flying discs into a 3-foot-wide opening 10 feet off the ground. Compared with the 2012 robot, which shot miniature basketballs into a hoop, the 2013 robot has created some unique problems for the designers.

“This year has been pretty challenging because the tasks are pretty complex,” said senior Anthony Esposito.

Joe Jeswald, retired superintendent of Girard schools, has been assisting the RoboCats as a mentor during the team’s 2013 design phase. He witnessed the team’s first robot nearly 14 years ago, and has watched the program grow ever since. He said joining the team is a great opportunity for kids to learn lessons in a field that is quickly growing.

“STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] is something students can apply in the real world,” he said. “We’ve had many kids leave this team and go on to get jobs in engineering.”

Esposito and Horne are the team’s only seniors and have been on the team four years. Both plan to attend college for engineering.

They said they have been working on the robot every day for the past six weeks, including eight-hour days on the weekends. Both said the pressure is on during the final days of completion.

“It can get pretty frustrating, but you just have to keep at it,” said Horne.

They said their problems were compounded by a slow start. The parts for the new robot didn’t arrive until two weeks after FIRST had issued the 2013 guidelines.

No matter the roadblocks, Esposito and Horne are confident they will have a high-functioning robot for their first competition March 21 in Cincinnati.

“The finished product is what it’s all about,” said Esposito.

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