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Freshmen Jacob Miller and Jeana Coffey repair the WHS Robotics Club’s contraption during a practice run Wednesday. The students will take their creation to the FIRST Tech Challenge on Saturday in Raleigh. Kellen Moore | Watauga Democrat



Originally published: 2013-02-22 11:08:53
Last modified: 2013-02-22 11:08:53

WHS Robotics Club preps for competition

The Watauga High School Robotics Club is booting up for a competition Saturday that will pit its robotic creation against other teams from across the state.


Nine students have been working weekly since August to design and construct their robot for the FIRST Tech Challenge held at North Carolina A&T in Raleigh.


Made of Tetrix aluminum pieces, wires, wheels and a critical piece called the LEGO NXT Intelligent Brick, the boxy contraption can roll, extend its metallic arms and lift small plastic rings.


At the competition, four robots will be put into a competition area, two against two. Teams earn points when their robots successfully lift the plastic rings onto a rack, with the highest rungs earning more points.


The robot must complete 30 seconds of automatic, preprogrammed actions, followed by two and a half minutes of actions guided by a team member with a controller.


A special piece called the Samantha module allows the students to communicate wirelessly with their robot.


Freshman Harrison Brown said he participated in a similar competition in middle school and got hooked.


"I just liked the creativity of it, because no two robots were the same," Brown said.


Aaron Williams, the only upperclassman in the club, said he always has been interested in mechanical, electrical and software engineering.


"I figure robotics is a good way to combine all three of those," he said.


The team recently went to a practice competition and, after sizing up their opponents, decided to scrap their existing robot and restart with only a month to go.


Team adviser Kimberly Marland said the robotics kits were borrowed from Appalachian State University, while New River Building Supply and Ferguson Enterprises donated materials for the enclosure in which the team members have practiced.


The team -- all sporting black fedoras -- gave a demonstration Wednesday at Watauga High School for parents, students and other spectators.


Freshman Jeana Coffey said she heard about the robotics club from many people before she decided to join.


"I decided one day to try it out and fell in love with it," she said.