AHS group promotes robot

The Austin robotics team Furious George shows off their robot to Woodson Kindergarten Center students Friday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Austin robotics team Furious George shows off their robot to Woodson Kindergarten Center students Friday afternoon. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

With each tote Furious George’s robot lifted, the children at Woodson Kindergarten Center oohed and ahed a little louder before breaking into applause when all four totes and a recycling bin were suspended in the air.

Though the lifts scored big points with the kindergartners, the team wouldn’t have scored any points for those moves in a competition.

“Unfortunately, we don’t get any points for doing that,” robotics coach Ryan Stanley told the kindergartens as he caught a falling bin. “They have to be all stacked up on each other.”

Woodson Kindergarten Center Green Turtles Jose Sanchez, from left, Ojwock Omot, Ronnie Whalen and Leo Kasak react as the Austin robotics team Furious George goes to work with their robot Friday during a visit. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Woodson Kindergarten Center Green Turtles Jose Sanchez, from left, Ojwock Omot, Ronnie Whalen and Leo Kasak react as the Austin robotics team Furious George goes to work with their robot Friday during a visit. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The Austin High School students controlling the robot quickly dropped all the totes at once, but the top two fell off. They’d scored six out of a possible 16 points. On the team’s next try, all the totes and recycling bin stacked perfectly for points.

Fresh off competing in the state tournament, five members of AHS’s robotics team Furious George showcased its robot and skills at an assembly at Woodson Friday afternoon.

The Minnesota State High School League’s state tournament was May 16 in Williams Arena at the University of Minnesota, where they placed 24th out of the 30 teams.

“The first experience of walking into the arena like for our first match was kind of like awe-inspiring,” junior Corey Todalen said.

Junior Griffin Egner called it a great experience, as the team got to compete against teams that are ranked in the top teams in the U.S. and the world. Egner was also pleased to see students they’d met throughout the year.

“The competition was really hard, but at the same time you got to see some really cool robots — just unbelievable,” Egner said shortly before the assembly.

Going into the competition, they were placed 12th out of 192 robotics teams in Minnesota. Though it didn’t reach the finals, the team received an award from Dunwoody College of Technology for outstanding engineering and design, along with $500, which only three teams received.

Griffin Egner maneuvers the Austin robotics team's robot into position during a visit to the Woodson Kindergarten Center Friday. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Griffin Egner maneuvers the Austin robotics team’s robot into position during a visit to the Woodson Kindergarten Center Friday. Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It was awesome; it was good,” Stanley said. “To be in the top 10 percent is awesome.”

Freshman Grace Shupe said the team took away many lessons from its state experience.

“We learned that when we’re going into a match, we really do have to focus on that match, because you don’t have any wiggle room as far as making up points,” she said.

Though all five students who showcased the robot at Woodson plan to return to next year’s team, they’ll have to wait to start planning, as next year’s task and game hasn’t yet been announced.

“Next year we’re definitely going to be focusing more on prepping for the field,” Shupe said.

This year’s game was called Recycle Rush. For the game, the robot was built to stack the totes and a recycling bin. It’s controlled by two students — one to move the robot and another to move lifting apparatus to pick up the totes.

Stanley said seeing his team’s robot perform like it was intended and watching the students step up to the challenge and stress of the state competition was a proud moment for him. One of his goals was to make it to state, and now he is looking to the future with another big goal.

“I am hoping to win a regional and go to world championships,” Stanley said.

“We are getting closer and closer every year and we are doing better,” he added. “Not win, just go.”

But throughout the team’s season, building was just a part of the activities for the club’s 25 members. In fact, the competition requires much more than just robot building and stacking totes.

Egner was one of the team’s spokesmen, talking to judges to explain how the robot works.

Stanley said the students were very eager to speak with the judges and show of their robots, and the amount of knowledge they had about the base of engineering and robotics helped them win the award. Stanley said the competition was a learning experience for the students — about both robotics and working as a team.

“They learned that in order to be competitive in today’s society, we have to work together,” Stanley said.

Madison Sauke, freshman, was one of the scouts who would check out other teams’ robots. The students also had to coordinate and work with other teams to complete joint tasks.

Stanley said one of the best parts for the students was probably going into competition with some of the other teams, talking with them about their designs and seeing what they did and how they overcame obstacles and problems.

“I think they were just really excited to work with other people,” he said.

Club members showcased a vast array of skills during the team’s season. The students did things like scouting, communication, welding, programming, engineering and marketing, and they also utilized business skills. The group also does lots of community service and community outreach to promote the club.

All the Furious George members who attended Friday’s assembly — Egner, Shupe, Sauke, Todalen and sophomore Dakota Robertson — urged others to join the club next year, with Shupe and Egner saying all students have something to offer the club.

“Even if you don’t know anything about robotics or don’t think you know anything about robotics or have anything to contribute, there’s always something to contribute,” Egner said.

This was the seventh season for the AHS robotics team and its first trip to state.

“I’m very proud of my team this year,” Stanley said. “We have exceeded my expectations.”

—Jason Schoonover contributed to this story

 

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