GREENSBURG – A Greensburg Junior High School team recently won fourth place in a robotics competition in which it competed against high school level teams and Cummins Inc. engineers.
On a Friday night in mid-January, Jonathon Bradley, 14; Jared Crawley, 14; and Alex Henderson, 13; drove to Columbus, got locked into the school with other participants and supervisors and learned about their task: Build a robot from a kit to pick up and stack objects.
The team opened the box that contained parts and tools for the robot, read directions and began the design and assembly. At midnight, the teams got some additional parts. They improved the design, ran tests, adjusted the design some more and tested some more.
Many of the students stayed up until 3 a.m. to work on the robots, said Deborah Gaff, Greensburg Junior High’s science teacher, who served as the students’ mentor.
Students grabbed a few hours of sleep on chairs and sleeping bags, but were woken early the next morning to prepare for the day-long competition.
The three Greensburg students split the competition duties, with Jared and Alex building the robot’s base, while Jonathon built the robot’s top part, including its arm. During the various rounds, Jonathon operated the robot, and Jared and Alex took turns as spotters, making sure that the robot did not run into any obstacles.
“I had a lot of fun,” Alex said.
Jared said he also liked that the competition required cooperation with other teams and figuring out with which team it made sense to cooperate, depending on the strengths and weaknesses of one another’s robots. The competition required the robots to pick up and stack objects, and the team had to combine its robot’s strength (picking up and moving the objects) with those of another team (stacking the objects).
As the youngest team, the three were surprised to finish in fourth place.
“We were shocked,” Jared said.
Gaff said the team performed very well, and had learned the right lessons from a competition a couple of months earlier in Bloomington, where their robot could not complete the task that was given.
At the Bloomington event, in which Jonathon and Jared participated , teams had to build a robot to pull a weight around a track, but the robot’s gears failed inches from the finish line.
Gaff said the kids responded to the failure as you would want them to respond, by learning from the experience and putting in lots of hours during and after school.
And Jonathon and Jared recruited Alex to the team after they saw him working on a robot at the school. Alex had been interested in robots for a while after having competed in a Lego robotics competition a few years earlier. Jonathon said he has enjoyed robotics for a long time as well, in part because he likes working on computers, an interest he developed through his mother, who works in information technology.
With Alex’s help and experience from the first competition, the team fared much better in Columbus, besting teams from high schools and a group of Cummins engineers.
“I’m just really so proud of them,” Gaff said.
And, she said, the skills the boys employed, from cooperation, communication, trial and error, robotics, programming, experimentation and dedication, will come in useful in their academic life and their future jobs.
The team’s trophy is on display at the school, and Gaff said that the three boys now mentor other students on their robotics projects.
Gaff said she hope to be able to recruit more students to participate in robotics and to continue to compete successfully in upcoming robotics camps.
Contact: Boris Ladwig 812-663-3111 x7401; firstname.lastname@example.org