When I was in middle school, I built a calculator with the help of my grandfather. There was no kit, but I had to figure out how to wire about 20 integrated circuits together. Although it could only add the numbers 1, 2 and 3, I thought it was very cool.
Well, the students are way beyond calculators! This month’s Patient Spotlight is about Jon and how he and his team design robots for competition. It is astoundingly cool! It makes me wonder what my kids will be doing in 15 years? The Biotech Team? Nano Club? – Dr. Nate
Dr. Nate: What are the robotics competitions like?
Jon: The robotics competitions are very hectic but lots of fun. They start out a little slow but they eventually get more exciting as the day progresses. It is kind of like watching Inception but without any dreaming.
Jon’s mom: These competitions involve rules and challenges set annually on a national level on “fields” that are designed differently each year and all the students involved have to follow a strict set of rules and figure out how to finish the challenge course within a 2 minute 40 second period of time and get the most points. They are also expected to exhibit “gracious professionalism” throughout the event. The first part of the challenge is autonomous, in other words the kids have to program the bots to complete the first 40 seconds of the match to perform “hands free”. Final 2 minutes of each match has 2 “drivers” for each bot, using a game control type device to maneuver the course.
Jon: My team has done extremely well this year. We have won two competitions so far (only one is required for state. Plus we hosted a competition at our school and we staffed it which also qualifies us for state). We have made some alterations to our robot but for the most part we kept it the same.
How did you get interested in robotics?
Jon: I got interested in robots when I was going into 6th grade. That summer to be precise. I took a robotics camp that was one week long at East Lake High School. There we built robots using Tetrix pieces (a type of robot building kit) and the guts of a remote controlled car. That’s only part of it because in 7th grade I took a robotics class and built a robot using Lego Mindstorms NXT pieces.