Bay View robotics teams know their nuts and bolts
By Ben Rodgers
HOWARD – They have tinkered and they have toiled. They have solved problems only to have new ones arise. They have put in long hours and time on the weekends.
They are the Bay View Middle School robotics teams, and they are some of the best at what they do.
Offbrand Robotics (the boys) and Radioactive Pineapples (the girls) have recently been awarded for their hard work.
At state, the Radioactive Pineapples won the Amaze Award and took second place in skills.
Offbrand Robotics cruised through state and took home the Excellence Award in the CREATE US Open, the top prize in the national competition.
Offbrand Robotics also just returned from the VEX World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, where they competed against 400 other teams from around the world.
They made it to the semi-finals, ranking ninth in their pool of 80 teams.
The boys competed against teams from Paraguay, Hong Kong, China, and the Philippines in the events.
“It really is a lot, 2:46 to 4:30 p.m., everyday,” said Bergen Peters, Offbrand team member, of the time commitment. “It’s been harder to get in that time with tennis and track going on, but we’ve been stepping up this to give priority to robotics.”
Offbrand Robotics team members are Peters, Michael Harrison. Connor Pingel, Rodney Ehrhardt, David Decker, Connor Behrend and Nick Fitt.
“By doing this we’re learning how to work better as a team and troubleshoot when things don’t go our way,” Fitt said.
The teams start with a CPU that acts as the robot’s nerve center.
That CPU then gives instructions to the other parts, like legs or arms, to accomplish tasks.
The teams need to create those other parts and then they control them with something that could pass as a video game controller.
Teams face off against each other needing to accomplish tasks, like picking up rings and stacking rings for points.
The more difficult the maneuver, the more points awarded. The team with the most points advances in competition.
“At first we were super excited to learn, most of us were really excited about robots and we just wanted to learn,” said Valerie Rehn of the Radioactive Pineapples. “After the competition we really started to get composure. We realized we had the composure to win, we weren’t just learning, we were winning.”
The Radioactive Pineapples include Rehn, Ellie Klumb, Abigail Lippert, Chelsey Martinez and Lauren Nickels.
Bay View has a robotics club and the two robotics teams that compete.
Any student may join the club, but due to costs and staffing, only the best make it to the teams.
Those teams have been working on their robots since October and put in lunch breaks, study hall periods and even Saturdays to work on the bots.
“From the engineering standpoint, they are learning about a variety of doings, and from the programing aspect, they are learning how to apply code to manipulate their designs,” said Kurt Prien, Bay View robotics coach. “Lifeskills-wise they keep task of engineering notebooks and how to document things and teamwork and collaboration as they communicate with their own team and also other teams at competition.”
Prien’s job as coach is to ask questions and suggest ideas that often lead to bigger things.
It’s the students who come up with the designs and work through the problems that arise.
“It’s a lot of trial and error on their part,” he said. “You get the basic idea worked out, but sometimes that causes another problem, so then you have to work that one out. It’s a lot of fun.”
Prien would like to see more students be able to compete.
He said an ideal situation would be to have interested parents offer their time to work with the students on competitive teams.
As a coach of two teams, his time is already stretched thin.
“It’s sometimes a shame you can’t offer it to more kids,” Prien said.
Currently the teams wouldn’t be able to compete without the support of Zepnick Solutions, Inc.
Since 2009, Zepnick has helped with tournament fees.
“Their support of tournament fees and more makes it possible for us to invest in needed resources,” Prien said.