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New robotics team has NMMS students fired up over science and technology

Newfound Memorial Middle School teachers Stephen Foss (far left) and Jason Hill (far right) pose for a photo with members of their new robotics club and the robot the students built. (Photo by Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
January 17, 2019
BRISTOL A new robotics team at Newfound Memorial Middle School has students excited to be discovering the science and teamwork that goes into not only building a robot, but competing together against other schools through REV Robotics.

Led by science teachers Stephen Foss and Jason Hill, there are currently 15 members in the group. Newfound Area School District Superintendent Stacy Buckley also arranged for them to partner with three engineers from Freudenberg NOK.

"One of them comes by every week. They've shared their experiences and one even explained how he became interested in engineering as a kid just by taking thing apart. They've been a great inspiration and a lot of help," said Foss.

Since November the students have been meeting every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon. Step One was to first learn the basics of how a robot operates. To enter the REV competitions however they also learned what guidelines they had to follow to ensure that their robot could perform specific tasks for this year's "Rover Ruckus" challenge.

From there they broke into groups. Some students were involved in the design, others in wiring, and still more took on the job of coding and programming. Among the functions their robot has to perform is moving "minerals" to specified locations in the competition arena. Ideally the robot should be able to pick up the "minerals," which earns them more points. As a back up plan though, they added a plow to push as many as they can in case there's a mechanical failure with the arm of their robot.

They all agree that building one has been a lot of fun.

"It all sounds way more complicated than it really is," said eighth grade student Austin.

Isaac, a seventh grader, said he joined the club because he likes building things and wanted a challenge, while Maici, who is in sixth grade, said it wasn't only the challenge but the fact that it was something to do in her free time.

"I don't have a lot of homework this year, so I have time at night to think about what to do in designing a robot. I really like that part of it all," she said.

Quinten and Beau were perhaps the most enthusiastic about Newfound Robotics. Beau loves math and science, both of which are part of robotics, and said he finally has found something to do that really interests him.

Quinten, on the other hand, joined the group because he wants to be prepared for the future when things like robots could be roaming the earth.

"Look at these pieces of scraps- we made a new 'living' thing out of them. They don't die until you disassemble them or they break, but then you can take the pieces and they can live on in another robot. I love this," he said.

Electra said she too wanted the experience of building a functioning piece of machinery and since joining the club, she is even considering it as a career.

Like many of the others, Lucas is also interested in the construction phase and hopes to be on the "Pit Crew" when they go to the next competition. The Pit Crew members are those who stand by to quickly make repairs or adjustments so the robot performs better and scores more points. That work is also an ongoing project during their meetings. Recently Ian, who is in sixth grade, took their robot out for a test run and noticed another adjustment that needed to be made.

"I found out there's too much friction on the back wheels so we'll need to put some spacers in there," he told his team members.

Hill said it's great to see how interested they have all become in the field of robotics. The team took part in their first scrimmage in Hudson last month and he and Foss were pleased with the results. The students went there with a robot that wasn't moving but managed to come back with it performing the tasks they needed to compete. As they continue to adjust programs, wiring, and moving parts like the plow and wheels, they look forward to four more scrimmages in January and February when they hope they'll have much success.

Garnet Hill
Penny Pitou
Martin Lord Osman
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