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Southlake Style

Carroll Robotics Student Sets World Record, Team to Compete in World Championship Competition in April

Feb 27, 2015 06:34PM ● By Kevin

Team presentation to School Board L-R, Clara Merklin, Cameron Allen, Skye Pekerti, Ben Wireman, Zachary Kearney, Nikhil Ravi, Brad Stalder, Matthew Prost, Zachary Froehlich, Jake Dorin. Photo courtesy of Linda Woessner.

The accolades keep rolling in for Carroll High School. On Saturday, Feb. 21, the school's robotics team competed at the North Texas Regional Championships in Greenville, earning its place to compete in the world championships in Louisville, Ky.

The team, which goes by "Fired Up!" includes: Nikhil Ravi, Zachary Kearney, Zachary Froehlich, Cameron Allen, Anthony Chen, Skye Pekerti, Brandon Vu, Clara Merklin, Matthew Prost, Ben Wiseman, Shyam Sabhaya, Jake Dorin, Jake Rowland, Elijah Snow, Brad Stalder, and Tiger Yang. The team is coached by teachers Linda Woessner and Leah Schwedler, and volunteer/mentor Ravi Venugopal.

Yang, a junior, 
has also participated on the Mandarin Chinese Robotics team for many years. His team participated in the finals of the world championships last year, and had the world record for the programming skills challenge last year. In a Jan. 24 competition Vex Robotics competition held at the school, Yang's team, T-VEX, scored 40 points and grabbed the world record at the time.

"In contrast to the head-to-head competition, in the programming skills challenge robots must run completely by themselves, on programming alone with two touches allowed," Woessner explained. "They must score as many points as possible in one minute."

Since then, Mira Loma High School's Matadors scored 42 points to capture the record. The school is situated in California. Carroll will have a chance to take the crown in the April competition. 

"Tiger’s experience and mentorship helped us to have the confidence to take on the Vex Competition Challenge this year!" Woessner said.

The January competition at Carroll was the school's first-ever Vex match. Yang was happy to discuss the importance of the type of competition.

"VEX Robotics not only allows students to apply their math and science expertise but also requires planning, presentation, and people skills in order to succeed, and ultimately places students under the stress of an enormous project in a direct competition format," Yang said.

This year is the first year that Carroll Dragon Robotics has participated in Vex Robotics competitions. This year, Carroll ISD purchased some robotics kits, and the team began working through a steep learning curve that has seen them go from complete novices to competing at the world championship level, Woessner said. 

"Many of the students got together over the summer to begin planning and working on robots capable of competing in the Vex Skyrise challenge," she continued. "Imagine opening a box of parts - gears, metal beams, wires, and motors - that you’ve never seen before and facing the task of designing, assembling, and programming such a complex machine! The kids went through an extensive research and design phase to decide what the robot would need to do, and how it would do it." 

One part of the challenge requires the robot to be able to lift a cube and place it onto poles of various heights. Some students spent time designing a mechanism that could lift the weight of a cube to the necessary height, and others researched what would be the best way to grip the cube. 

After designing their robot and mechanisms, the next task was to build it. The team divided into groups with different jobs. Some students were responsible for building different components, and then putting them together within the strict size requirements. 

"This part of the process takes many, many hours, and patience, and willingness to refine their design as they build and test their ideas," Woessner said. "While the engineering team was building the robots, the software team was busy learning the new programming language and software design features of the new system. As soon as the robot was ready to go, the programming team wrote the code that gives the robot its 'brains.'" 

The team, with roots in programming, is usually very strong in that aspect. The robot has to run in autonomous mode (based on programming) for the first part of the competition, and then students can use a controller, again programmed by our students, to control the robot for the remainder of the match. 

"These kids are exceptional kids, and the entire process is an amazing learning experience," Woessner said. "Because they are creating technology that is their sole responsibility, they are fully engaged throughout the entire process. They own it, and they are excited and motivated to build the best robot they can. 

"They learn more than just robotics. They learn project management, and how to work on a team. We always say our goal is to build a better robot together than any one of us could build by ourselves. As a new team, I’m especially proud that they’ve come so far, and are able to hold their own against the best robots in the world!"