Disc Drive: Joliet robot impresses crowd
By Tony Graf tgraf@stmedianetwork February 12, 2013 10:26PM
Updated: March 14, 2013 6:48AM
JOLIET — The thin lines of blue and white lights gave the robot a sophisticated look. The wheels allowed it to spin around and strafe from side to side. And when the machine reached the right position, it launched Frisbees through elevated targets.
Then the robot grabbed the lower beam of a pyramid structure and did a pull-up of sorts, spinning its wheels freely to indicate that it was fully off the ground.
The Joliet Cyborgs robot, the product of students at Joliet Township High School, drew applause from the crowd at Tuesday’s exhibition at the Central campus.
“Very impressed, the robot functioned and worked exactly the way we had planned,” said Ken Minor, a Rockdale business owner who has been a mentor to the students.
Ken and his brother, Keith Minor, both of Channahon, own KWM Gutterman, a manufacturer of gutter machines.
Don Dickinson, a high school board member, asked Ken to help the students with the robot, and Ken said he agreed without hesitation. He helped the students during the past month as they prepared for the Ultimate Ascent competition in April in Chicago.
Ken Minor met with student team members from both the Central and West campuses, who presented design ideas. After choosing the design, the students moved on to engineering work and then started the assembly at the KWM Gutterman plant in Rockdale.
At the plant, the students were supplied with the necessary tools to build the robot, and a machinist and an assembler were on hand to help them if parts had to be made or if the robot needed modification.
“That way, the kids were able to actually see a machine tool or some of the different equipment without them having to operate it,” Minor said.
The student-controlled robot will participate in the Ultimate Ascent, the FIRST Robotics Competition, from April 4 through 6 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion. During the contest, the robot will throw Frisbees through targets at different elevations to score points. Another segment will have the robot attempting to climb a pyramid.
On Tuesday, the robot was able to launch Frisbees through a target about 10 feet high, which will earn the team three points per Frisbee in the April contest. Then the robot moved into a different position using Mechnum wheels, which allow forward, backward, spinning and side-to-side mobility.
The robot then attempted a two-point throw at a lower target. The Frisbee missed, hitting the wall below. The robot then backed up and tried again, this time sending the disc sailing through perfectly.
In the final step, the robot climbed the first level of the pyramid.
“We designed the robot so that we could aim ... to raise and lower the top of the robot for hitting the targets,” Minor said. “And that allowed us to climb with it because in lowering the platform, we were able to lift the robot up off the ground.”
“Everything the students had strived for, they accomplished,” he said.
On Monday, The Herald-News detailed the students’ work on the project. Tuesday’s exhibition was a chance for the mentors to receive some applause as well.
Cyborg student team leaders include Thomas Smith, Jacob Aul, Zackary Reece, Miguel Gutierrez, Matthew Molo and Alrick Sayasavanh. Managers include Shane McCarthy, Dyllan Potter and Jake Blaauw.
Other mentors included Dickinson; Bob Tota, plant manager at Vulcan Materials Co.; Guillermo Barragan, chief executive officer of Digital Electronics Design Engineers; Curt Ward and John Koepke, professors at Joliet Junior College; Saeed Jellouli, professor at DeVry University; and Brian Ryjewski, a 2012 Joliet Cyborg team member.
From the high school staff, mentors include Christopher McGuffey, John Barber, Thomas Connelly, John Figliulo, Matthew Almon, Michael O’Malley and Carol Collins.
JC Penney and the University of Illinois Extension Service 4-H were among the many sponsors of the project.