At the word “Go!” two small robotic vehicles race down separate wooden ramps and begin trying to pick up balls and place them into a goal.
The robots are radically different — one sports a scooping mechanism on the front of its frame; and the other has a simplified forklift — but both speed around the wooden arena attempting to collect as many balls as possible.
The forklift robot has a harder time aligning with a ball, but once they are collected, it deposits them in the goal with relative ease.
The other robot easily scoops up one of the green balls, but has trouble depositing the ball in the goal, so it raises the ball and slams into the goal repeatedly until the force of the impact forces the ball to roll out of the scoop and into the goal.
A timer goes off and the robots freeze.
Their operators, students enrolled in the robotics course at Delaware Hayes High School, step into the arena and lift them out, inspecting any blemishes or bends in the robots’ frame.
The competition was the culmination of a semester of work, according to Andy Borzok, who teaches the robotics course and designed and built the course. Borzok said the students worked in teams of four to build a robot capable of maneuvering the arena and collecting the balls.
The competition worked in three phases, Borzok said. First, the robots competed in a round autonomously, meaning the teams had to program the robot’s actions beforehand and would have no direct control of the robots during that phase. In the second and third phases, the students used controllers to manually command their robot to collect balls; and in the third phase, to collect flags. Borzok said the students had to program the controls for the robots manually.
This is the first semester of the robotics course at Delaware Hayes High School and Borzok said before it, there were no engineering courses. Borzok said the course is open to all students at Hayes, and aims to give students engineering and programming experience, since there is more automation in many industries.
Judging from the reaction of students who stood around the course cheering for the robots and laughing, the class has been a success.
“I think it’s really fun,” said David Ash, a senior at Hayes. “It takes creativity to build robots and it’s different than every other class at Hayes.”
Ash said he’s considering a career in programming and enjoyed the challenge of programming the robots.
“It’s less about trying over and over until it works and is more about trying over and over until we don’t get it wrong,” Ash said.
Another senior, Craig Klumpp, said he wants to be an engineer, and the course has been a learning experience.
“It’s all about problem-solving,” Klumpp said. “I really like it.” Klumpp added that he wished the course was longer than a semester, because he’d like to keep learning.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.