March 6, 2014

Robotics Club prepares for Super Regionals

The Oskaloosa Herald


The Oskaloosa Herald

OSKALOOSA — The Oskaloosa High School Robotics Club is getting ready for the Super Regionals contest in April to test their engineering mettle.

The club’s Team 4443 — The Sock Monkeys — is headed to the contest after being a part of the winning alliance at the First Tech Challenge state competition in Coralville on Feb. 22.

The Super Regionals will be held at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and the Sock Monkeys will compete against 71 other teams from 13 states. The winner will then advance to the Worlds competition.

The Robotics Club competed in the First Tech Challenge because another team had dropped out, and the Oskaloosa club was the next in line, said Robotics coach Steve Dixon said.

“They sent us an email and we got lucky,” Sock Monkey member Logan Gross said.

“We didn’t expect to go to state,” Sock Monkey member Kazuki Kaito added.

The Sock Monkeys made the most of their opportunity and now they are revamping their robot for the upcoming Super Regional.

“After every competition, we look at the pluses and minuses to see what worked and what didn’t,” Gross said. “It’s typical for us to go through one revision or two after a competition.”

The team’s robot has to perform in several “games” or tasks that last about 2 ½ minutes each. The club receives a video of what the robot is supposed to do, Gross said.

Building a robot takes several skills and each team member contributes to the overall effort. The skills needed to create a robot include programming, drafting, wiring, building and fine tuning. The team keeps a journal of all activities related to building the robot, Gross said.

Typically, it takes about two to three months to build a robot and two to three weeks to revise it, Gross said.

The Robotics Club has been in existence for five years. There are 163 robotics teams in Iowa, Dixon said.

The club has two teams — The Sock Monkeys and the Ninja Neers.

As students progress through high school, they pass their expertise to younger club members.

“As we get older, we teach the younger ones,” Gross said. “We expect them to be better than us.”

Building robots can get expensive, but the club receives community support from individuals and businesses.

Dixon said JC Penney got the club going by helping it get its first robot kit. Currently, Musco Lighting and Paslode help the students make parts for their robots.

Students design the parts and Musco and Paslode employees manufacture them, Gross said.

It costs $500 to go to the Super Regional, Gross said. The club has to stay for two days and cover all their expenses, he added.

However, the club does a lot of fund-raising activities and receives financial support from the Oskaloosa Indians Booster Club. Some fund-raising activities include manning the concession stand at two Indians home football games, making and selling T-shirts, holding a bake sale during parent-teacher conferences and selling candy bars, Gross said.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com