Winning robotics club
Thanks to school’s supporting education and competition, children all over Wyoming are learning to build functioning robots.
Cody High School started its robotics club shortly after getting a robotics class. Antony Fink, teacher of wood and industrial technology and the advisor for the robotics team, said both were largely based on getting children and teenagers more interested in science courses.
“It was more of a whole state thing trying to increase interest in the sciences, in STEM, in computer programming, and robotics is a great way to promote that,” Fink said. “We do have a robotics class, and we wanted an after-school program to go with it. We looked to Powell and their robotics classes and clubs, and we based a lot on their model.”
The CHS robotics team, made up of senior Emmett Osborne, junior Kaitlyn Hollingshead, sophomore Luis Mata and freshman Hayley Pearson-Horner, have had great success during the last two seasons of robotics competitions. Mata said a few younger team members felt it was natural to join the team.
“It started mostly at the middle school, because we had a robotics team there, and when we transitioned to high school, we just started it here too,” Mata said.
The robotics team has competed in a few competitions this year, including the Powell Scrimmage, Thermop Throwdown and the Wyoming State Robotics Competition in Casper.
For the two latter competitions, the CHS robotics team, “The Last Minutes,” earned second place in the Thermop Throwdown and 11th at state, an improvement from last year’s 16th place.
Their placing at state is especially notable because their robot was in pieces shortly before it, hence the team name.
“At one point, we decided to make improvements to our linear actuator on our robot,” Pearson-Horner said. “When we decided to do that, we had to take everything apart. It was in pieces right before the state competition. We replaced the fishing wire that helped the actuator function with more taut string. When it is full back, with the arm extended and raised up, it weighs so much that it could tip over the whole robot.”
Jeffrey, as the robot was sometimes called, had a design that made it look like a square made of metal, with four wheels designed for directional steering and the linear actuator, which acted as an arm that moves up and down, stretching out and grasping objects.
It is also fitted with a sensor that can detect certain things, such as at the Powell Scrimmage it could detect which bricks were black and which weren’t, allowing the robot to know how to separate the bricks. The team didn’t have that feature for the state competition, but Mata said that having it for the scrimmage allowed Cody to “destroy” the other teams.
Aside from the functionality of the robot, the CHS robotics team also won awards for community involvement. During an away competition, the team was practicing driving the robot in the hotel which lead to a funny encounter.
“We were driving the robot in the hotel to pass some time and test it, and we came to a group of blind people who were asking ‘What is that noise?’” Mata said. “It turns out they were there for Nordic skiing, and they were really interested in learning about our robot competition. We just talked for what felt like 10 minutes but must have been an hour because Mr. Fink told us we had to leave to get ready. We told the story to the judges and they gave us a trophy for ‘Community Involvement.’”
As they are relatively new to Wyoming robotics competitions, the CHS teams hopes to keep improving themselves in the years to come. As a senior, Osborne won’t be participating in the next year’s competitions but said he had a fantastic time with the team.
The fact that it was made up of people from different age groups and classes made it all the more interesting for him, and he hopes the team will continue to grow.
“Our team members are amazing, our advisor is amazing, even the teams we competed with and against were amazing,” Osborne said. “They helped us out a lot, even when they didn’t need to. Since this is only our second year competing, and we’re still a relatively new, inexperienced team with only a few team members, I still think we’ve done remarkably well against teams with over 20 members that have been going for years.”