Senior Jonathon Spalten and junior Andrew Wu work on the drive train of the robot. Photo: Rohan Malik
Senior Jonathon Spalten and junior Andrew Wu work on the drive train of the robot. Photo: Rohan Malik

What rhymes with tolotics flub and is super fun? Robotics Club! Every Wednesday and Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Pace students gather in the green room to learn about modern robotic technologies and have fun while doing it. Students build real robots that perform simple tasks, and compete against other robots in massive competitions. “Robotics is a sport for the mind,” said senior and leader of Robotics Club Jonathan Spalten.

Jonathan is the head of the engineering aspect of Robotics Club. He leads alongside juniors Rohan Malik and Andrew Wu. Rohan is in charge of programming the robot, and Andrew helps with organization and outreach. Andrew is also making a banner for the club. Mrs. Korb is the teacher sponsor. She has responsibilities such as making sure the students have all the necessary materials, understand the guidelines and stay on task.

The Pace Robotics Club is a lot like the team featured in the movie “Underwater Dreams.” Pace’s club is given a mission, similar to the mission given to the groups in the movie. However, Pace’s team specifically works with on-land robots, not underwater. This year, the competition is called “Cascade Effect.” The robot has to be able to knock down a massive tower of wiffle balls in various sizes, and proceed in picking up the balls and dropping them into tubes that are on wheels and moving. Competitions also feature side challenges that give teams more points. This year they include scoring balls in the higher up goal, pushing the full tubes up ramps, or finishing with the tubes in the team’s specific parking zone. Pace’s first competition will be at Southern Poly-Technic University on Dec. 6.

Building has not started yet this year, but the team is well into the design stage. “Robotics Club is a way for students to come up with their own designs, something they do not get to do often in class,” said Mrs. Korb. Designing is not easy, as it involves intense collaboration and planning. Coming up with the idea is the hardest part, and requires the most thinking and teamwork. Once planning is finished, the building begins. Pace’s team is in the FTC, the first tech challenge league. That means they use Lego Mindstorm and TETRIX parts, which are metal pieces, to construct the robots. Most robots consist of a four-wheel drivetrain as the base. The necessities of the mission decide what goes on top of this. In total, building the robot takes around 7-10 hours, depending on the design complexity.

Last year, the mission was to pick up small blocks and drop them into baskets, which were balanced on a see-saw. This was called “Block Party.” Extra missions included raising a flag or hanging on a pull-up bar. The Pace team used a “conveyor belt” robot to pick up the blocks, and then reversed the process to drop them in the baskets. They did very well, placing seventh out of a multitude of teams. This year, the team expects to do well because they are confident about their design. The robotics team is still looking for new recruits, so it’s not too late to join.

 

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