Robotics at McClain High School is in its third year and the students are not only learning valuable skills with coding and programming, but proving those skills in competitions.
According to McClain Robotics Adviser Nate Luke, at competitions the students compete in task-oriented games which involve them building and programming a robot to complete a certain task for points.
“Every year the task changes, but this year they build stacks of cubes as tall as possible and have to calculate numbers of color-coded cubes for certain amounts of points. In other words, this year’s competition is highly mathematical,” he said.
There are five McClain robotics teams with four students on each team. Those teams are: 14246A (Bots B4 Thoughts), 14246B (Winnie and the Poo), 14246C (Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies), 14246D (Jimmy and the Glonks) and 14246E (Super Unclassified Certified Creation).
In recent months alone, the robotics teams have performed well in competitions, like in November placing second out of 45 teams at a robotics competition sponsored by the Columbus Blue Jackets. According to Luke, team Jimmy and the Glonks recently qualified for state competition based on their robot skills scores. A second team, Bots B4 Thoughts, also recently qualified for state by receiving the Excellence Award at the team’s last competition. Luke also said a third team, Winnie and the Poo, narrowly missed out on qualifying for the state competition.
Luke said Hillsboro also has three teams going to the state competition, which is set for March 7.
“It is tough to make it to the state level, so the fact that we have so many going from Highland County is a testament to their hard work and efforts,” Luke said. “Sometimes you go to a competition with 60 teams and only one or two of those teams may come out of the competition with a state bid, so it is very impressive.”
Luke spoke about the challenging nature of robotics. “The biggest benefit is the fact that you have a hard task ahead of you from the start where you build something from scratch, program it to do something down to a quarter-inch or less of precision, and be able to iterate and test constantly, running into obstacles along the way that you must solve. You have to do this as a team, too, which sometimes is not always easy, but that’s the point of robotics. Embrace the impossible and tackle it head on.
“As an athlete in high school myself, I was involved in plenty of moments that made me nervous or anxious,” Luke said. “None of those moments compare to watching the kids in robotics that care so much about a chunk of metal and seeing them compete like it was a national championship on the line. If you like to watch something competitive, come to our competition on the 22nd and watch a semifinal or final match.”
The match Luke spoke of is on Feb. 22. McClain and Hillsboro high schools are joining forces to co-sponsor the competition at the Southern State Community College’s Patriot Center in Hillsboro.
There are 46 teams set to compete on Saturday. Those teams represent about 16 school districts not only from the local area, but also school districts from Cincinnati, Dayton, and as far away as Akron and Wooster. The qualifying matches will begin around 9 a.m.
“We are so proud of the efforts from staff and students as our robotics program continues to grow,” Greenfield Superintendent Quincey Gray said. “I am excited to attend the competition on Feb. 22 and hope that others will plan to attend. It will be a very exciting event.”
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village Schools.