LKSD students build, compete with robots

by Mark Arehart on February 5, 2013

A remote controlled robot under construction.

Eight teams from throughout the region are in Bethel to compete in the “First Tech Challenge” robotics competition. High School students in the Lower Kuskokwim School District have been working all year on building robots and finally get to compete in challenges.

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Wrenches and bolts clank as students work on their robots. Some look like big black toasters and others look like erector set monsters.

They are setting up for the annual “First Tech Challenge” regional qualifier in Bethel, a series of matches that pits group’s robots against one another.

“All the teams understand that they are coming here without being 100% ready,” Mark Lineberger, LKSD Career and Tech. Ed. instructor said.

He said teams will be tinkering with their robots, trying to get them in tip-top shape, right up to the start of competition Wednesday morning.

“And this year’s challenge is called “ring it up.” And the best way I can describe it is it’s on a 12 foot by 12 foot playing field an there’s a vertical rack with two sides, and they’re playing a three dimensional tick tack toe game,” Lineberger said.

So literally the robots move within the allotted area, picking up rings and placing them on the rack—all by remote control.

This tournament of sorts has eight teams from across the region, two from Bethel, two from Quinhagak, and teams from Oscarville, Kwethluk, Mekoryuk and Nunapitchuk. And depending on how teams do here, they can earn a spot in the state tournament in Anchorage.

But first, Lineberger said, they’ll have to make sure their robots work and hammer out a strategy.

“It’s the good kind of stress. It’s the positive stress where they know they’re under a time crunch. That gives them the challenge right there. But they also know they have the ability to brainstorm anything they want and make it work as long as they keep working together on it. And they’re going to learn probably as much in these next two or three days as they did in half the season. There’s that much learning that’s going on here in Bethel.”

The robotics tournament starts Wednesday morning and runs through Thursday evening at the Cultural Center in Bethel. The winners go onto the State tournament in Anchorage in March.

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