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Archive for Saturday, February 16, 2002

Robotics team bound for St. Louis

February 16, 2002

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A robot assembled by Lawrence High School students is chest-thumping-powerful.

But it will need the heart of a Lion to do well in a national competition sponsored by NASA that pits four robots against each other in a bizarre game that draws inspiration from basketball, soccer and military combat.

"She's running very well," said Kelsey Mullis, who is among 15 LHS students working to complete the team's robot by Tuesday's deadline.

A group of students at Free State High School also will have an entry in the First Robotics contest. Both Lawrence schools received $10,000 grants from NASA for construction, entry fees, and transportation and lodging to first-round competition in St. Louis.

Qualifying teams advance to the championships in Orlando, Fla..

This year's robots must compete in an enclosed court containing 62 soccer balls and three baskets 6 feet tall. The course is divided into four equal zones. The four robots on the court attempt to place balls into baskets. The baskets are on wheels. A team earns points for each ball and each basket in its territory at the end of the two-minute game.

"Stealing is perfectly permitted," said Joe Bradshaw, coach of the "Fairy Godmother" robotics team at LHS.

The most successful teams will have robots that can drag baskets and balls  even other robots  to their home territory. Defense of a basket is crucial to victory during these heavy-metal melees, Bradshaw said.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is sponsoring the competition to interest teen-agers in an expanding robotics field.

"They're very interested in students learning robotics," Bradshaw said.

The after-school construction projects are a golden opportunity for high school students to apply computer, welding, engineering and physics lessons discussed in class.

"You get a real sense for how things work," said Mullis, a junior at LHS. "You put it together, and if it doesn't work, you have to take it apart and start over."

Bradshaw said the design-build process permitted students to get a firsthand look at the endless challenges of invention.

"For some, it's been a driving passion," Bradshaw said.

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