Joliet students to premiere climbing robot competitor Tuesday
By Tony Graf firstname.lastname@example.org February 10, 2013 4:36PM
Updated: March 12, 2013 6:18AM
JOLIET — The Joliet Cyborgs want a big crowd to show up Tuesday and make some noise for their Frisbee-throwing, pyramid-climbing robot competitor.
Joliet Township High School is hosting a robot expo, free and open to the public, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday at Joliet Central High School. The expo will be in the school’s “Old Transportation Building” at 110 Collins St. in Joliet.
The FIRST Robotics Competition Team Community Exhibition returns this year after debuting in 2012.
Students from the West and Central campuses are designing, building and programming a robot. If you attend the Tuesday expo, you will get a preview of the student-controlled robot that will compete in the Ultimate Ascent pyramid-climbing event, from April 4 through 6 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago.
The Cyborgs competed at the University of Illinois at Chicago during their 2012 rookie year. The event is large-scale, with thousands of people in cheering crowds, a fun sports atmosphere, outrageously dressed fans and sophisticated competition.
To any rookie, it’s a serious challenge. In 2013, however, the Cyborgs have several returning students with a good knowledge base.
“It’s quite an experience coming back the second year,” said Herbert Triplett, a senior at Joliet West. “This year, I’m seeing that we are more organized, and we definitely have a general idea of what needs to be done right from the get-go.”
The school has sought freshmen and sophomores, along with their more experienced counterparts, to build the program long-term.
“This is the thing for Joliet. This is the new thing,” Triplett said. “This year, we’re taking it to another level.”
Tom Smith, a senior at Joliet Central, said his experience from last year has helped him a lot. He has been there for every team work session in 2013, since the effort began the first week in January.
“Going into it now this time, I knew that I was going to be putting in a lot of time, staying on weekends,” Smith said, as he planned on Friday to stay another weekend before the big expo.
“Design-wise, I’ve taken a second design class at school, so that helped out a lot,” he said.
The team worked under challenging time constraints last year and still feels some pressure this year. However, the team has learned time management, said Zackary Reece, a senior at Joliet West.
“Everything’s a lot smoother,” he said.
In April, the FIRST Robotics Competition will have a Frisbee-throwing component — similar to disc golf or Frisbee golf — and a pyramid-climbing event.
“During the first few minutes of the game, the robot has to throw the Frisbee into these goals and score as many Frisbees as it can,” said Christopher McGuffey, a science, technology, engineering and mathematics teacher at Central.
“After that, they’re supposed to use the last few seconds — like roughly 30 seconds — to try and climb the pyramid in order to gain additional points for their team,” said McGuffey, a faculty mentor who also is returning for a second year of competition.
Carol Collins, project director at Joliet Township High School, also was there for the road to UIC in 2012. She commended the community mentors and sponsors who have helped students this year.
These partners include Vulcan Materials Co., KWM Gutterman Inc., Digital Electronics Design Engineers, Joliet Junior College, DeVry University, Caterpillar Inc. and alumni from the 2012 Cyborgs.
“JTHS administrators, staff and students are grateful to our community partners, and everyone involved, who have given their time and energy to provide a real-world experience for our students,” Collins said. “This partnership has allowed our students to develop the skills that are necessary to become college and career ready. The students are learning skills that go far beyond the classroom setting.”
Last year, the Joliet Cyborgs took their robot to Chicago for a basketball competition. This year, the game has changed, and faces on the team have changed. In the long run, the school wants the younger students to return to UIC as experienced upperclassmen, and then go on to college and the work force with a sense of confidence.
That, Cyborg fans, is the ultimate ascent.