Pharos-Tribune

January 9, 2013

Logansport HS forms robotics team with NASA grant

by Caitlin Huston
Pharos-Tribune

LOGANSPORT — A frisbee-throwing, pyramid-climbing robot will soon be rolling its way through Logansport High School.

A team of 43 students, called Berrybotics, has six weeks to build the robot, which will be entered in a nationwide competition. The robotics team formed at the beginning of December after funding came through from a NASA grant and they’re hoping to raise up to $20,000 for the project.

The group wasn’t able to form until early December, when they found out they had enough money to go ahead with the project due to a $6,500 grant from NASA.

Since then, Scott Johnson, an 11th- and 12th-grade science teacher at the high school, said the team has been scrambling to build the robot in time for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or F.I.R.S.T., competition. There are about 600 teams participating in the competition, Johnson said.

On Jan. 5, the team found out what the robot had to do and specifics about its dimensions.

“Our job is to build a robot that can actually throw Frisbees at targets and climb a pyramid structure,” Johnson said.

The rush comes because the robot has to be packed up by the second week of February so that it can be shipped to North Carolina, Johnson said.

“It’s a pretty daunting task and it literally starts from the ground up,” Johnson said.

The team is divided into six task groups that individually focus on the design, building the robot, public relations and marketing, a project management team, electrical team and programming team.

So far, the team has been meeting after school and on weekends to build a prototype robot that will be used as an example for future designs.

Team leader Andrew Bever, a physics teacher at the high school, said the team is hoping to use the prototype in the community to put on shows.

“We’re thinking about using it in the community somehow,” Bever said.

The team is planning to start designing the robot it will use in competition after members debated designs Wednesday night.

This is the first time the high school has had a robotics team, Bever said.

Emily Graham, assistant director for the Century Career Center, said she applied for the grant on behalf of the team after hearing a presentation in October. She filled out documents on why they wanted to start team and then went through all the engineering classrooms in the career center to look for team members. Graham said she was hoping to get the minimum of 12 students before the Dec. 6 deadline, but she ended up with more than expected due to students’ enthusiasm at the career center and high school.

“We ended up with 55 kids right off the bat,” Graham said.  

The team is made up of a diverse group of students who specialize in topics ranging from welding trades to marketing to physics, Graham said, adding she believes this diversity makes the team stronger.

“It just really draws on a lot of different strengths that kids bring to the table,” Graham said.

That number leveled off to 43 as commitments were made, Graham said.

At the meeting Wednesday night, sophomore Olivia Little said she decided to be part of the PR and marketing task force because she wanted to connect with the community while working alongside robotics.

“I’ve always loved working with the community,” Little said.

The grant money was used to purchase the starting kit for the robot and to pay the team’s registration fee, Graham said.

Because building a robot is new to most people involved, Johnson said they are asking for help from community members familiar with the different tasks. They are also learning from Kokomo schools who have experience building robots, Johnson said.

“Even though it’s a competition everybody’s already helping out,” Johnson said. Graham said the team received a $500 donation from Cal-Comp USA and has received commitments from other local businesses.

Johnson said the team would like to take all of its members as the PR and marketing team work to raise money for the trip.

“We hope to take as many as we can,” Johnson said.

Bever said he hopes to continue the robotics team and expand their capabilities each year.

“This is just the start,” Bever said.

Caitlin Huston is a staff reporter of the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5148 or caitlin.huston@pharostribune.com.