By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — The members of the Orleans County 4-H Robotics Club were excited to find out what challenge they’d face in this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. Now that they have their marching orders, the hard work can begin.
The team, nicknamed Joe’s Average Slackers, is made up of high school students from across the county. They are working together with a group of mentors to design, build and program a robot that will compete with and against others at a regional competition at the end of February.
They gathered at Kodak Park last week to find out the details of Ultimate Ascent, a challenge that teams from across the world will also tackle this spring.
Ultimate Ascent has a pair of three-team groups competing to score the most points in a two minute and 15 second game. Points are scored either by firing or placing one of many frisbees through targets set a various heights and by climbing a skeletal pyramid inside the 27 ft. by 54 ft. course.
The Slackers are now spending about ten hours each week at RS Automation in Albion to build their robot before sealing it up in mid-February. They will first build a prototype, something the team didn’t do last year.
“We’re coming up with the idea now,” said Medina student Hayden Allis. The basic concept is to eschew a throwing mechanism and instead focus on climbing the pyramid and depositing their frisbees in a goal at its peak. “We’re figuring out how much power we need to lift it up.”
Mentor and mechanical engineer John Redshaw, who has worked with the team both years, said the students have already picked up an understanding of the mechanics of what they want their robot to do.
“They’ve gotten good at working things out on their own,” Redshaw said. “They bring us their theories, and ask ‘can we build it this way?’ ”
This year, the team is led by a triumvirate of co-captains Allen Sanford and Allis, and assistant captain Morgan Seielstad. On Saturday, the mentors largely served as a sounding board for students’ design concepts.
“We’re making it much more student-driven,” said Marlene Seielstad, one of the team’s founding mentors. “They’re in charge of their success.”
Saturday, Albion students Nick Ettinger and Seielstad, and Orleans County Christian School student Andrew Mckee worked on a scale model of the pyramid and a proposed design for the robot featuring a wedge groove.
”We could do a container with pistons,” Ettinger said. “It would lean up onto the pyramid and pull itself up (using hooks).”
They’ll continue to meet three times a week for the next month.
The team started last year with fewer than a dozen members but have already grown to around 20. The 4-H also has a FIRST Lego League team that should provide a pipeline of programs for students interested in technology, science and math.
It has already benefited students like Allis.
”It’s fun, I like engineering,” he said. “I’m going to do engineering in college ... just by participating in FIRST you can get scholarships.”
In addition to the backing of the local 4-H chapter and volunteer mentors, the team has financial and material support from RS Automation, Xerox, JC Penney and Takeform.
For more information about the Orleans County 4-H Robotics Club or to join as a student or mentor, contact Seielstad at or 721-3205 or visit http://lego.wiksclan.com.
Contact reporter Jim Krencik
at 798-1400, ext. 6327.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.