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Newton students in robot-building competition
In about six weeks, students from Newton North and Newton South will start to build a robot.
A team composed of students from both high schools, called the Ligerbots, is back this year for a second go-round at the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics challenge this year, after coming in 19th in a competition of 36 schools in the state last year.
Returning team member Jeremy Perlman, 16, said working on the robot last year was a great experience. “I just really, really like pretty much everything about FIRST Robotics,” he said.
“One of the biggest things in my life this year is engineering, so this is just great for me,” Perlman said.
Last year, Perlman said, Newton started working on its robot late in the process, so there was a lot of rushing around trying to get everything done. “We were just trying to get the stuff done as well as we could,” Perlman said. “I think we did an amazing job.”
With a month to go before the official FIRST Robotics kit arrives, 30 of the Ligerbots met early in December to put their control unit together. The control unit is a joystick used to manipulate the robot. That afternoon was spent getting their feet wet. The students crowded around a pair of folding tables put end to end, surrounding a large pile of computer parts and instruction manuals.
Greg Poulos, Newton South systems specialist, said the only goal for the day was to make sure the students knew how the system fit together.
“We don’t need the table of contents,” Poulos said to his students, reading from the control system’s manual. “Goals? We know what the goal is. The goal is to find out if everything works.”
“We’re not exactly sure how we should start with our robots,” said Paige Grody, 14, a Newton North freshman. “So we’re just getting familiar with robots in general.”
Grody said she was drawn to the program because she liked to see how things worked. “For example, my little sister and I, we take apart coffee pots at my house, when they break,” she said.
“This whole FIRST thing is all about sharing and working together,” Newton North physics teacher Debbie Lund said. “The universality is what draws me into this.”
Lund said FIRST and the Ligerbots are not just intended to attract students interested in science and engineering. The activities and interests of the 80 or so students span many disciplines. .
For example, some students are spearheading the fundraising efforts to raise the money needed to send the kids to competitions. Designers engineer the robot’s form to follow its functions. Computer science students write thousands of lines of computer code to teach the robot how to move. Artistic students create a Web site and students with great marketing minds promote the Ligerbots.
Last year, math teacher Marjory Waldron said, the Newton team had only a few weeks to get a robot ready for the competition, held at the Agganis Arena in Boston. “That’s when the seeds were born,” Waldron said.
Waldron told students assembled at a recent Build Team meeting held at Newton South the competition is about more than building the robot: with all the effort that goes into the process, students will be not only well equipped for college, but very attractive to admissions offices. “Being on a FIRST robotics team will open a lot of doors,” she said.
There are 1,000 high school teams in North America, and an estimated 60 of them in Massachusetts.
Team members meet up to three times. There’s one general meeting for the entire operation, which Perlman estimated to be 30 students strong; one meeting for students involved in the business end of the operation; and one meeting for the build team. Perlman goes to all three.
“I would be more than happy to be on both teams,” he said. “The more communication we make across the teams, the better.”
The rules are announced on Jan. 3, Perlman said. “I cannot wait for that,” he said.
Newton Tab, December 2 via http://www.wickedlocal.com/