Altoona Students Win Robotics Challenge
As published in the Altoona Mirror by Russ O’Reilly on May 14, 2017
They were the newbees to a military robotics competition who left as first-place winners.
Altoona Area High School students participated for their first time in the Penn State Electro-Optics Center’s Sea, Air and Land Challenge. And they came away with two first-place awards for best execution in both the land and sea challenge.
The science, technology, engineering and math challenge held at Bald Eagle High School April 28 was a joint venture between Penn State Electro-Optics Center and the U.S. Navy, said Altoona Area science teacher David Borst.
Borst and some of his students presented the news of their victory to the school board at a recent meeting.
“The Navy has technical jobs they can’t get filled. They need U.S. citizens in these jobs, and they are trying to encourage young people to go into science and engineering careers,” Borst said.
Borst’s 15 students in his engineering physics class participated in the land and sea categories of the competition.
Their task was to build a robot that can go into hazardous military situations. The students started in March by completing engineering documents for two robots that included drafting, accounting and budgeting.
The robots were then constructed, with bodies made from PVC pipe and zipties. Cameras the size of a pencil eraser gave students a visual on a monitor. They could not view the robots during the competition.
The students worked in teams of three to coordinate the actions of the robots during the competition. One student controlled the buoyancy of the underwater robot while another steered, for example.
The land robot has an arm that extends 2 feet high and can lift a fairly heavy block with a scoop and transport it. It simulated transporting items to people who were trapped.
The water robot was built to motor under 3 feet of water and lift a block to transport to an assigned location in the pool. That challenge simulated underwater archaeology.