Student engineers create competition-ready robot

Lena Kogan, Staff Writer


The Robotics Club has been climbing the ladder of success. On Nov. 3, the Robotics Club competed at the Connecticut BEST (Boosting Engineering Science and Technology) Robotics Competition at Central Connecticut State University.  After preparing for six weeks, the team moved on to compete in the semifinals. Despite their efforts, the team failed to move on.

“They spent every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday designing, developing prototypes, and presenting their results to the club membership,” said club advisor Mr. Donald Schaefer.  “The development of the final robot components and testing were completed by approximately 20 to 25 different students who participated in the building of the robot.”

The requirements of the competition included the creation of a robot that was able to assemble a central processing unit.  In other words, the robot had to be able to successfully pick up dowels and hangers as well as place blocks in specific slots.

“This year, the team spent hours designing and developing an articulating hand and fully operative arm that were able to reach, grasp and rotate an object through the use of a limited amount of materials, motors and servos,” said Mr. Schaefer. “The result was awesome.”

Upon arriving at the competition, the team had time to make several last-minute adjustments to the machine before being evaluated against opposing teams.  Every member of the team played an active role, taking turns as drivers and human players.

“The competition itself seems a bit underwhelming at first, but as soon as you start progressing through, it proves to be quite intense in not only the robots competing but in how harsh they are on the presentations and engineering journals,” said senior Justin May.

Besides presenting a robot that was able to accomplish tasks needed in the development of a CPU, the team was also responsible for creating and marketing a presentation and acquiring a thorough understanding of the skills needed to sell the product they manufactured.  In addition, judges assessed the journals the team used to record the process of constructing their robot.

“The experience goes beyond the tournament. The students were able, in many cases for the first time, to take their ideas and follow them to completion,” said Mr. Schaefer.  “They learned new hands-on skills while constructing prototypes and the actual components of the robot. While many may not have realized it, for the first time in their lives they were engineers.”

However, the students were not the only ones who received recognition at the Connecticut BEST Robotic Competition.  Mr. Schaefer was also honored as the 2013 BEST Teacher/Mentor of the year for his guidance and support of the team.

“Probably the greatest accomplishment that one can receive is being praised by their peers.  I look upon this as a reflection of my students’ accomplishments over the past six years and as an achievement for the Port Washington Educational Foundation, as there wouldn’t be a robotics club or class if it weren’t for them,” said Mr. Schaefer. “This award may have my name on it; however, the space required to list people individually would far exceed the allotted space in The Schreiber Times.”

“It was a very fun and a great learning experience, regarding both engineering and teamwork,” said junior Evan Kaminsky.