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W.Va. robotics team advances to world competition

March 1, 2014
Associated Press

HEDGESVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Neither Zack Hahn nor his fellow James Rumsey Technical Institute students were the least bit frustrated as they considered how to continue improving the robot they designed — a labor of love that recently took top honors in the state and qualified them to compete at an international event.

As a result, Hahn and other "Penta Package" teammates — Tristan Simons, Jared Parrill, Dan Rohrbaugh and Zach Mackinder — will be heading to the VEX Robotics World Championship in Anaheim, Calif., in late April. They are the first team from West Virginia to qualify for this competition.

Hahn, smiling as he recalled the excitement of the past few weeks, said the robot had been named after Ulfric Stormcloak, a rebellious character from the video game, "Skyrim."

"After we got done with this one, it just worked so well — just like an uprising king. It does have a little bit of a nerdy background to it, just like us, but when you think about the name in context it really works," he said with a laugh.

"But we don't know yet what we're going to name the next one. We're now designing it on a program called Autodesk Inventor, where we will also test it to make sure all the parts work properly before we build the final one out of aluminum," Hahn said, adding that each team member has a specific role in this process.

The new design should be completed so building can begin in early March, and that could take up to two weeks to complete, he said.

"And that's not too bad when you look at it and see how many parts there are that have to be tested," Hahn said.

To compete, the robot must be able to pass under a 12-inch-high bar. It is allowed to hold three balls which earn points when they are placed in a cylinder. Even more points are possible if the robot can place a larger ball on top of the cylinder.

A higher score will also be possible if the robot performs well on a hanging bar, which means it must extend and then hook onto the bar while lifting itself at least 10 inches off the ground.

However, building a new, improved robot isn't the only thing students must do before arriving at the April 23-26 competition featuring approximately 700 teams from around the globe, said instructor Charles "Chuck" McClain.

He said fundraising is now underway to raise $10,000 to cover travel and related trip expenses for the team.

While that's a sizable task, McClain has been busy spreading the world about the students' accomplishment and asking for donations — from individuals as well as businesses, he said, adding, "These kids work hard and they deserve this."

Sponsors at four different levels are being sought, including friend ($500 donation), gold ($500-1,000 donation), platinum ($1,000 donation) and corporate ($3,000 donation).

Donations can be made on the school's website, www.jamesrumsey.com.

Additionally, the school's Spring Book Fling, being held this weekend at the school's cafeteria, will help provide some money for the trip since its proceeds benefit student competitions. Hours are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day, and thousands of books will be available for a 50-cent donation for each selection.

Another fundraiser, a spirit night at the Martinsburg Chick-fil-A, will be held March 5.

McClain, who originally helped advise the school's robotics club, said this extra effort is worthwhile because students are learning important skills in areas — including science, technology, math and engineering -that will be useful in the real world.

Although this robotics program is only two years old, students have been successful right from the start, according to McClain, who said another team, including Joshua Pelphrey and Jason Harris, will be competing in late March at the State Skills Mobile Robotic Competition.

For additional information on the teams or how to help financially, contact McClain at 304-754-7925, ext. 529, or email ctmcclain@jamesrumsey.net.

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Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/

 
 

 

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