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Lee robotics team competes in challenge

Lee High School's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Academy STEMbots competed at the First Tech Challenge robotic competition at Roosevelt High School on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013.

The team, headed by sophomore Matthew Orta, made it into the semi-finals for the second time in two years. The robot, nicknamed “Scorpion” because of the its final shape, was constructed out of two TETRIX robotics kits and a total of seven 12V motors and two servos, along with various controllers.

“Robotics is challenging, especially the programming, but it is entertaining,” said Sophomore Michelle Prisciliano.

It took the team just over two months of daily robotic club meetings to design, build prototypes, test their prototype designs and finally come up with their entry, which they competed with on Saturday. The basic idea was to build a robot which was capable of retrieving two rings from a rack and transport them to a scoring rack located in the center of the robotic playing field. Teams could choose to score in one, two, or three levels and each ring they “hung” on the rack resulted in different points. It’s possible to score as many as 150 points or more, depending on the scoring strategy of an alliance made up of two teams during each round.

“Building the robot meant a lot of trial and error to finally come up with a design that we were happy with,” added Freshman Dante Gilmore. “I definitely loved being on this team and intend to come back next year with this experience under my belt. Mr. Rubalcaba saw us through a lot of tough times while we were in the process of actually building the robot.”

Engineering was incorporated into every aspect of the robotic build. For example, the team built two new stations for their use during the season. One was a permanent battery charging station which allows them to rotate batteries on the robot during competition. Another was a unique motor and sensor testing table. The team intends to send both designs to other teams in the nation. The testing table saves the team valuable time in between rounds because it allows them to test motors and sensors off the robot, and that allows them to leave the robot and it's wiring system intact. Team members also designed and built a robotic transportation system built on a wagon chassis used to carry all their tools and their robot.

“If I didn't know any better, I’d say I’ve been working with real engineers,” said Team Coach David Rubalcaba. “These students rolled up their sleeves on day one of the season and didn’t stop designing until the final bell rang at the competition on Jan. 26. They are the type of individuals who will one day be in charge of engineering firms.”

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Posted on Feb. 8, 2013