January 21, 2015

Robocats Competitive at First Tech Challenge

By Annette Tait
Where do you start when building a robot? For the Center-Stanton Robocats, it wasn’t with the instructions. Because there weren’t any.
“They don’t really give you step-by-step [instructions], you kind of have to figure it out,” RoboCat Team Member Shawn Heilman said. “So we had to go through trial and error. But we finally got it figured out. It works good and we’ve done good so far.”
Heilman, Holly Boyd, Mykaela Jacobson, Abby Hintz, Ben Thompson, Teanna Hintz, Angel Bobbe and Mara Bornemann spent an untold number of hours considering the goals of the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics competition and what their robot would need to do to accomplish them.
The “FIRST” in FTC sums up the organization’s goal – its competitions are designed “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The robotics competition is based on a sports model and designed for students in grades seven through 12. The teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming their robots to compete as alliances against other teams.
Center-Stanton High School became involved at the encouragement of Missouri River Education Cooperative STEM Coordinator Paul Keidel, who suggested to CSHS Math and Science Teacher Jodi Hintz that the school apply for a grant and get a team started.
Hintz told students about the program and they expressed interest, so she filled out a grant application, visited with CSHS administration, and recruited Agriculture Education Instructor Nikki Fideldy to assist in advising the group.
The team received a $1,500 grant from MREC to get the project started. There was some funding from the school for science-related projects, and the team has also worked the concession stand and done other fundraising activities to pay for project costs.
The Robocats’ spending has been conservative when compared to that of other teams. The team learned during a scrimmage held at Bismarck State College in November that a South Dakota team had spent $19,000 on its robot. The RoboCat’s budget is substantially lower.
“The robots have to fall within the contest rules, but there are no spending caps,” Fideldy said, noting that engineering firms heavily sponsor some teams.

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