By Lora Scripps
They take PVC pipe, piano wire, screws and other items to create working robots. The students aren’t trying to work their way out of a real-life sticky situation, but today’s MacGyvers are learning skills that will help toward their futures.
The Lindsay Lane Christian Academy Robotics Team, led by science teacher Kathryn Dewitt, are preparing for Tennessee Valley BEST Robotics competition Oct. 15 at Calhoun Community College. The team, also known as Laser Bourne Lions Robotics, is one of three in the county taking part in the competition.
Working on the East Campus, formerly known as Faith Christian Academy, and out of a building known as the Bot Barn, more than 23 students have been fabricating a working robot with a mission. The following is a synopsis of this year’s BEST Robotics competition: A mock laboratory, BEST Genetics, performed experiments on some genetically altered bugs and something went terribly wrong. These bugs have escaped from the laboratory and have been traced to an abandoned shed near the site. The bugs could be dangerous to human health and the surrounding ecosystem. To be safe, BEST Genetics will not allow humans to capture the genetically altered bugs. Therefore, they must hire a company who can design and build a robot capable of recovering these potentially dangerous insects.
Throughout the competition, which lasts six weeks, students gain experience in engineering, marketing, development, public presentations, design, finance, and many other practical phases of what is required to make a business work, according to Kathryn Dewitt. “I’m very excited to see them learn common sense, how to put things together, and problem solving,” she said. “I think it also builds confidence.”
She said sophomore Connor Brown took three broken, discarded laptop computers and fixed them by installing new hard drives. “He was working to get us started before the season even started,” she said. “He’s since figured out how to acquire and build a Web page for the team.”
Brown, who’s been involved in robotics for two years, said he was up for the challenge.
The team also recently acquired 3D CAD Design SolidWorks software through fundraising. Lindsay Lane doesn’t offer a course in CAD design. However, Kathryn said she is excited to be able to offer students that opportunity.
Throughout the year, students have been holding fundraisers to raise funds for the competition. “We also go out and get sponsors,” said team CEO Joyce Dewitt. “AUVSI is our biggest one.” The school was awarded a $1,000 grant from AUVSI this year.
In the future the robotics team would like to put electricity in the building they use on campus. The building, affectionately called the Bot Barn, was previously a storage shed. They estimate the cost at $3,000.
Joyce, a junior, has been on the robotics team for four years. She was excited when Lindsay Lane Christian Academy and Faith Christian Academy combined and said students who came from Lindsay Lane are looking forward to being a part of the robotics team as well.
“We are excited because this is also our first year to do robotics on campus,” she said. “In the past engineering would be separate from marketing. They would be in two different buildings.”
The merger gave the team a new name and a new name brings new opportunities, according to Joyce and her teammates.
Daniel Phillips, a seventh-grade student at Lindsay Lane, is one of the youngest on the team. He said he became interested in robotics after seeing an engineering notebook. The notebook is a big part of the competition and holds the key to the team’s design.
When asked what he would tell someone who asks about the robotics team, Phillips replied, “It’s a whole lot of fun.”
The team recently took part in BEST Robotics Mall Day, a mock competition. Joyce said her team was one of two to actually capture an insect.
For more information about Lindsay Lane Christian Academy Robotics Team, visit www.llcarobotics.org.