OSKALOOSA — The mechanical arm of a small, boxy robot clamped down on a large plastic brick. The robot was steered back to a nearby tray, where it dropped the brick and went back for another.
Members of the Oskaloosa High School robotics team – the ‘Sock Monkeys’ – gave a presentation before the Oskaloosa Community School District Board of Directors.
Oskaloosa High School math teacher Jason Bunnell is in his first year with the robotics team. Steve Dixon is in his 10th.
Six Sock Monkeys team members attended the presentation, including Jordan Anderson, Andrew Drost, Teagan Davis, Anderson Keough, Carson Abramson and Maddie Keough.
Abramson said currently, the Sock Monkeys are ranked first out of 24 in their league. There are eight leagues in the state. So far, there have been five meets.
“Those have just been sort of scrimmages and seeing how our robots perform against other teams,” he said. “As we get into these next three meets, there’ll be eliminations. So that’s where we really have to start working and making sure we’re on top of things.”
The way teams advance, Abramson said, is through awards for things such as design and engineering; and how well the robot places in each game.
Alliances with other teams are important, Abramson said.
“Gracious professionalism is kind of what robotics stresses. So we have alliances in each meet,” he said. “Gracious professionalism is needed because we have alliances. Mainly because of that but also just because we’ll need it in the workforce in whatever we go on to do.”
Oskaloosa High School Principal Stacy Bandy said there’s a lot more to robotics than ‘messing with the robot’
“When they’re talking about they have to go talk with the teams and do alliance work, that is a lot,” he said. “Talking with the other kids and keeping book. Miss Keough has quite a job trying to keep up with these guys on all the things on all the things that are happening. So my hat’s off to her too.”
Anderson said the game involves picking up bricks or “stones” from the playing field.
“And we can stack them onto the building plates or the foundations. The more we stack on there, the more points we get,” he said. “And also, the higher we stack, we get a bonus for stacking high as well. At the end of the game, we try to move that foundation without knocking any of our points of, so we can get bonus points.”
There are two phases to each game, Anderson said and each round is 2-1/2 minutes in length.
“First is autonomous. That is where the robot drives itself just according to the program. And that’s mostly what I work on,” he said. “So right now, it’ll just start by driving up to the plate and moving it off the starting point, which gives us bonus points.”
It’s during the driver control period that a driver and an arm manipulator work together to collect the stones.
“The arm can telescope out and move up and down so we can try to stack as many as possible with a decent amount of range,” he said.
During meets, Anderson said, teams are ranked and the top four can pick alliances amongst other league members.
It’s a good exercise in networking, Dixon said.
“People you don’t know at state, you’ve never seen before,” he said. “So it’s a challenge to find alliance partners.”
Despite being competitive, there’s a sense of camaraderie, Abramson said.
“If we do bad at a meet, nobody else wants that either, because it’s going to affect them,” he said “And if someone else is having trouble, we try to help them. it’s kind of built into it that we try to help.”
Abramson said he plans to go into mechanical engineering. Anderson said he’s interested in computer technology, possibly software engineering. Maddie Keough said she’s likely to pursue either engineering or science.
Managing Editor Angie Holland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @OskyAngie