The Poland Middle School Robotics Team successfully defended their title last month when they again won the Northeast Ohio Robotics Education Program at Youngstown State University. The team is now disassembling their robot in preparation to make it three in a row next year.
According to Patrick Williams, Poland Middle School science and technology teacher and robotics team advisor, the after-school robotics program has become popular since its formation eight years ago.
"Our robotics club that meets from October through December (once per week) is open to all students in the school," Williams said. "I usually get around 35 seventh- and eighth-grade students. The competition team (10 to 11 students) met from January to March (one to two times per week)."
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The Poland Middle School Robotics Team has successfully defended its crown by winning the Northeast Ohio Robotics competition last month. Team members pictured with their trophies and winning entry are Kate Landry, Mariah Mrofchak, Mark Stein, Kaitlin Shorter, Brendan Gage, Kristen Thompson, Connor Saxon, Chris Economus, Shane Starling, Sean Connelly, and David Leech.
The competition team is the group that handles the YSU program by building a robot out of LEGO blocks and parts that have to perform certain duties. For this year's program, the robot had to lift an object off a conveyor belt and place it in a shipping area.
"Students were encouraged to use the engineering design process throughout the experience, which focuses on defining a problem, coming up with possible solutions, testing the solutions, and evaluating which one worked the best," Williams said.
This year's competition theme was, "Ship Out!" and was designed to encourage participants to think about how robots are used in the manufacturing industry. Teams competed in five areas that included two games, robot design, team presentation, and a technical journal. Out of the five events, Poland Middle School participants received four first place awards and one third place award. They also won the overall first place award.
The technical journal was an important piece of the competition as it showed judges how the team assembled their entry to deal with the task their robot had to complete. They also had to give a PowerPoint presentation that summarized the whole experience from start to finish. This was presented before the judges and the team is scored, adding to the overall score.
The team is presently dismantling the winning robot and storing the parts to be used in next year's design. As for the team members, they had fun, but also gained a working knowledge of problem solving.
"I feel this club is extremely important," Williams said. "It teaches problem solving skills and makes the student think. They can't just go to the Internet and 'Google' a solution to the problem. They have to come up with ideas to solve the problem and test it out. If it works, they can try doing the task more efficiently. If it doesn't work, they have to analyze why it didn't work and make changes. It was very frustrating at times, but the students didn't give up."
This year's championship team consisted of: Sean Connelly, Chris Economus, Brendan Gage, Kate Landry, David Leech, Mariah Mrofchak, Connor Saxon, Kaitlin Shorter, Shane Starling, Mark Stein, and Kristen Thompson.