Who are the Roborioles?
Avon High School has a robotics club! Five years ago, Tim Engelhardt approached Chris Hill and Gary Ayers and asked if they’d like to help start a robotics club, and they were enthusiastic to get started! The Goal: Provide a great experience for students. And that’s just what they did. For the first year the club had about 24 numbers, and has grown to 60 – with 14-16 mentors (teachers, parents, engineers, and technicians).
What do they do?
It all starts with a problem. Before the competition season, mentors and instructors will set out specific problems for these budding engineers to solve. Sometimes, the problem is a game. For example, perhaps they have to develop a robot that will grab a wooden circle from around one peg, across a platform and place the wooden circle around a new peg. Starting with the problem, the kids then break up into groups to start coming up with solutions. One group will have to design a chassis that will have wheels and allow the robot to move from A to B, there also needs to be places on the chassis where other pieces of the robot can be attached. Another group will start creating a mechanism that will actual complete the task set out by the problem or challenge. Meanwhile, programmers are busy developing ways to tell the robot how to do the job it’s intended for, and still another group of students is trying to figure out how all of these pieces and parts are going to fit and work together. An additional group of people focuses on how to raise the profile of the club with various PR projects. That group created little trinkets to hand out as little gifts at events, such as AHS’s Trunk or Treat. Here are the different focuses that the students take on inside the club: programming, electrical pneumatics, mechanical engineering, integration specialization, strategy, inspection, and PR. Students and mentors work in these various areas to ensure that the robot functions properly.
An association called FIRST Robotics presents the challenge for the competition season, which the club will receive in early January. The entire competitive season lasts from the time they receive their challenge through April. This challenge becomes the problem the members will be solving for the following weeks to prepare a robot to take to competitions. Last year, students had to develop a robot that could pick up large barrels. You might have seen their barrel robot if you were at the high school’s Trunk or Treat this year in the form of a large ghost that successfully frightened many people who thought it would stay stationary and didn’t! You might also have seen one of their off-season projects if you’ve been to football games and watched a canon-like robot shoot t-shirts into the crowd.
Experience, experience, experience! These inspiring young people are working together, learning to collaborate, working on technical problems, and developing solutions – not just to their robotic problems, but also interpersonal solutions along the way. Many of these kids plan to pursue a future in engineering, and this club is an ideal place to explore the various paths they might take. Avon High School student, Colin Blose says, “It’s a huge help since I plan to study engineering when I go to college.”
How are they funded?
The bulk of the funding for Roborioles comes from corporate donations and grants. Chris Hill has invested a great deal of time and passion writing grant proposals so that the club can have all the materials it needs in order to be successful. Companies such as Rolls Royce and Allison Transmission donate money to clubs like the Roborioles because they know that they are investing in their own future. Many of these students will go on to great engineering schools with a desire to return to the area and take up a career. These corporations are aware that they will see a return, simply in the depth of understanding that these students will bring back as employees someday. In fact, Carrier believes so hard in this cause that one of their employees, Steve Blaske, comes to work with the Roborioles every week as part of his job, and he continues to get paid for his work. They consider these young minds a truly worthy investment! Student members also pay $50 a year to be a part of the group, which pays for transportation costs associated with attending various events throughout the year.
Will there ever be robotics teams for younger kids?
This is currently in the works! Students from grades 5-8 will soon be able to participate in similar programs at their own schools. The current plan is to utilize Lego robots and work in a comparable way to the high school team. So be sure and keep your eye out for information on those upcoming opportunities!
How can we see these cool robots they’re building?
Everyone should definitely come to the Roborioles Open House on February 3rd, 2016 at 6pm at Avon High School. They will be excited to show you what they will have been working on for their competition season at that point. Come prepared to be impressed by some amazing young problem solvers!
Also, be sure and like them on Facebook to stay informed about what they’re up to! Search for “Avon Robotics Team.” Feel free to contact Chris Hill with any questions or comments you might have: CMHill@avon-schools.org.
A great big THANK YOU to the educators who dedicate their time and energy to making this club a great experience for our kids! We appreciate you!