Robocats - Following their presentation to the Three Rivers Rotary Club Thursday, Oct. 14, Robocats advisor Phil Webb, three-year member Brandon Bottles and two-year member Hunter Schnetzler stand with their robot from last year. Commercial-News/Elena Meadows

Robotics program gaining steam

THREE RIVERS — “It’s easy to teach, engaging, hands-on, kids love it,” Phil Webb told Three Rivers Rotarians on Thursday, Oct. 13 about Three Rivers High School’s Robocats club, now in its third year.
Twenty-five students from freshmen to seniors participated last year in the robotics club, which meets at Three Rivers Middle School under the guidance of Webb, Bill Bottles and Jim Stephanoff. Their goal is to build a robot to participate in FIRST Robotics Competition.
Last year, their robot could pick up a ball and shoot it at a goal, as well as having a scissor lift that could reach up nearly seven feet, grab onto a bar and pull its 110-pound self two feet off the floor. It participated in two competitions; in one, the Robocats made it to the playoffs.
FIRST, founded in 1989 by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, is a program based on the idea that young adults’ futures can be shaped from an engineering experience that provides learning of technology, business, marketing and leadership. It is targeted to get students into STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.
Not only does the program help with technical skills such as adjusting gear ratios to improve robot performance, it helps team members learn marketing, the ability to scout other teams so they can create alliances with teams whose skills complement their own, and the skill of staying calm under pressure in the busy pit making sure the robot is in tip-top working condition.
This coming year’s theme is “Steamworks”; Jan. 7 is the kickoff day where they will learn about this year’s project and from there, teams have six weeks to create a robot using less than $4,000.
Five schools in the county also now have robotics teams: Burr Oak, Centreville, Colon, Constantine and Sturgis.
Elena Meadows can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or

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