Robotics: The New Fad

Given some scrap metal, a few tools and a design, would you be able to build a fully-functioning robot?

For 30 of Seaholm and Groves’ students, this is their year-long challenge and a labor of love.

Amidst the whirring of tools and the smell of sawdust, the CAD room serves as the meeting place for Seaholm and Groves’ combined robotics team.  While most students are regularly registered in Engineering Technology classes, it’s not a requirement to participate in the club.

The team consists of 30 boys and girls from grades 9-12. It’s led by CAD teacher Bernie Simms, who meets with students after school Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are three seasons of the activity, coinciding with the trimester system. The program is funded by the Birmingham School District as well as industrial sponsors.

“We’re trying to train kids and inspire them to reach for future STEM careers [Science Technology Engineering and Math],” said Simms, who has led the team for the 4 years of its existence.

Students are given a 6-week period to design and build a robot capable of performing a task which varies each year. It must comply under certain height and weight restrictions, avoid other robots when performing, and be fully functional.

This year’s game is to lift dodgeballs and exercise balls into goals of different heights.

“This year we have a much larger group of kids that actively participate,” team member Danny Maertens, a Seaholm senior, said, “which is good because we have more ideas to work with.”

Seaholm and Groves Robotics is a part of two organizations for High School Robotics, OCCRA [Oakland County Competitive Robotics Association] and FIRST [For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology]. OCCRA guidelines require robots to be 100% student designed and built.

The team has been successful in the past. They consistently place middle to higher ground in tournaments and took a week out of school to attend the FIRST 2012 Championships in St. Louis last April. The competition featured the best and the brightest from within the United States and around the World.

“Living in the Detroit area [largely influenced by engineering] we’ve got some pretty impressive competition,” said Seaholm junior Olivia Miller. “We win some, we lose some, but we learn a ton along the way.”

Seaholm High School will host a tournament November 8, which will feature 24 teams from the Metro area.

“We can always use the extra hands and there’s no prior experience necessary,” said Miller. “You’ve got nothing to lose by dropping by.”

A member of the combined Seaholm/Groves Robotics Team works tirelessly after school. The team has seen a sudden growth in the last few years.  CAROLINE SQUATRITO / PHOTO
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