TMCNet:  Chehalis Students Face Robotic Challenge

[March 22, 2012]

Chehalis Students Face Robotic Challenge

Mar 22, 2012 (The Chronicle - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Twelve students from W.F. West High School in Chehalis are traveling to Seattle to compete in the regional FIRST Robotics competition on Friday and Saturday.

The first ever W.F. West robotics team will compete against students from 92 schools from all over the world including groups from Turkey and Japan.

"It's a good challenge and everyone has a different way of doing it. You won't find two robots the same," said Clifton White, a physics teacher at W.F. West who heads up the robotics team. "They say with a rookie team, just get it to work." The students built a working robot from two boxes of parts in only six weeks.

"The hardest part is the programming," White said.

The robot can pick up and shoot basketballs. It has four motors, six wheels and drives up to 15 miles per hour.

"It goes pretty fast," White said.

The robot is controlled by Wi-Fi and students communicate commands to it with joysticks.

The team built two robots, one for practice and another for competition.

Their robot will compete against others in a complicated game similar to basketball.

"We're going for the ball and a really good way of making points," White said. "We're confident we've got a good design and our strategy is just to score points." Unlike other sports, teams can also earn points by helping other teams.

"You're supposed to help people. Gracious professionalism, they call it. That's the whole thing, we're here to help. Winning isn't the main goal, learning is," White said. "In the real world (scientists) work as a team." Jaiteg Singh, a sophomore elected to oversee safety and rules for the W.F. West robotics team, said he hopes to use the skills he is learning in the real world. Singh plans go into medical machinery after high school.

"I'd like to use science to fix things. I'm interested in using technology to cure diseases like cancer," he said.

Singh studied a 274-page rule book for the competition to make sure his team is in compliance.

"There are a lot of rules, but I'm confident," he said. "It's a lot of teamwork." Reile Slattery, a senior and president of the robotics club, said she has also learned from her participation in the robotics team. Slattery is planning to continue her interest in science next year at Pepperdine University where she will study biology.

"This weekend will be eye-opening. Four days of robotics isn't really something I envisioned," she said.

Slattery helped her team with administration, business planning and finance. She even wrote essays to apply for awards and competitions.

"I'm definitely more of a math and science student," Slattery said. "It's been a real interesting experience." The robotics team received a $6,500 grant from the Chehalis Foundation, another $6,500 from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, $3,000 from the owners Amazon and $500 from Platt Electronics. They will use the funds for parts, travel and training.

Now that they have some parts and funding, students can practice for competitions year-round.

White envisions a day where every school has a robotics team.

"Just like a football team," he said.

White hopes students will eventually be able to earn letters in robotics.

The W.F. West robotics team aims to attend two regional competitions next year.

"We really need community support," White said.

"This is their first competition so even showing is a win," said Candace Chaney, who has a son on the robotics team.

"We need engineers in our area and in our country and it'd be great if Lewis County would support it." Amy Nile: (360) 807-8235 Competition: W.F. West High School Students Traveling to Seattle for State Competition ___ (c)2012 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) Visit The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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