‘No. 6’ robot shoots hoops for Ramona

By Jessica King

High school hoops took on new meaning over the weekend for some local teens, who built a robot that shoots basketballs.

The 12 members of Ramona’s student robotics club—which meets at Ramona High School but is open to any high school student in town—competed in the annual San Diego Regional FIRST Robotics Competition at Valley View Casino Center, formerly the Sports Arena.

Senior Thomas Spencer, 18, and Ramona High math teacher Richard Waters assemble basketball-playing robot. Sentinel photos/Jessica King

Every year, the competition consists of challenging students to build a robot to perform a specific task. It attracts students from throughout California and abroad, with 56 teams in attendance this year. The Ramona team ranked 42.

The theme of the 2012 competition was ReRumble, a chance for students to build a robot capable of playing basketball.

Seniors Dakota Stevenson and Michael Ramirez, both 18, put final touches on bumpers for Number 6.

The rules are stiff, with students receiving their instructions, a starter kit of parts, and the rules just six weeks before the competition.

Ramona students spent their six weeks building a four-wheel drive robot named Number 6. They competed under the team name Neo-Tech Robotics.

Number 6 uses air pressure to push a basketball into a chute, where its wheels, similar to those used in a pitching machine, project the ball out through a short barrel.

Club President Thomas Spencer estimates over 150 man hours were logged working on the robot, and says that’s probably on the short side.

Spencer has been a member of the Ramona club for the past four years and plans to take what he’s learned to Brigham Young University-Idaho this fall, where he’ll be majoring in electrical engineering.

Number 6, built by Ramona teens.

“Personally, I always played with Legos as a kid and I especially liked Lego Robotics, so this was perfect for me,” the 18-year-old senior said. “I learned a lot.”

In addition to the engineering experience, Spencer picked up life skills. In particular, he said, time management.

“Sleep, get more sleep,” he said with a laugh.

Dealing with too little information, not enough time and a tight deadline is all part of the purpose behind the FIRST competitions, said club adviser Richard Waters, who teaches math at Ramona High School.

Students receive help throughout the six-week challenge from Waters and mentors who volunteer their time­—mentors like Walter Ainslie, an engineer with Hamilton Sunstrand Power Systems.

Ainslie lives in Ramona and has seen two sons go through the robotics program.

“Part of the real world experience is having these kids learn what it’s like to have the stress of the real world projects and responsibilities,” said Ainslie, who continues to mentor even though his sons are no longer in high school.

Sophomore Emmanuel Mora, 16, is only in his second year with the club but has already accomplished his goal of socializing.

Mora, who moved to Ramona toward the end of his eighth grade, said he thought the club would be a good way to branch out and meet people and, after just a couple of weeks, he was hooked.

Sophomores Tatianna Walton and Christina Goldsmith work on public relations.

Not everyone in the club worked directly on the robot.

Sophomore Christina Goldsmith, 15, oversees public relations for the club. Like Mora, she said joining the club helped make her more social. She also credits it with helping her learn public speaking and interviewing skills because part of her job duties are to go out in the community to solicit business sponsors.

“It’s very chaotic but I have to admit, it’s really fun and probably the best part of the year for me,” she said.

This year marked Neo-Tech’s sixth appearance at the annual FIRST competition. The Ramona robotics club was founded by students at the now-closed Sun Valley Charter School and has since moved to Ramona High School.

Funding is largely dependent on community support.

This year’s sponsors include Hamilton Sunstrand Power Systems, American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Qualcomm, BAE Systems, the Kiwanis Club of Ramona, and Stoody Industrial and Welding Supplies Inc.

Related posts:

  1. Neo-Tech team gears up for ‘10 Build Season
  2. Robots hone in on Ramona Community School
  3. Ramona Rotary Students of the Month
  4. Kiwanis Club donates to RHS robotics team
  5. OPMS robotics team places first at Legoland

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Posted by Karen Brainard on Mar 10 2012. Filed under Featured Story. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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