Parkville High School Robotics Competition

     How many of us remember the challenge and the excitement we had, as children, in building our first house out of Lincoln Logs, Lego’s, or simple building blocks, or our first tower with an Erector Set. It would seem to me that high school students always seem to enjoy such challenges. They love to use their imaginations to create and build new things, taking parts and pieces from several unrelated items and create something new, different and useful with them. Some teenagers, and my father knows this all too well, enjoy taking things apart and then rebuilding them as something  “more useful.”

     The students at Parkville High School enjoy such challenges and were certainly up to the task. The challenge to them was to design and build a robotic arm using some basic components provided by a local high-tech company, and their imaginations. Excitement and anticipation filled the air whenever the two teams met.

     The students were divided into two teams.  The first team was the D.C. Motor team led by Richard Martin. The DC Motor team decided to design and build a robotic arm using battery operated or “DC” motors as the arms power source, giving it the electrical “muscle” it needed to pick up objects.

     The second team was the Pneumatics team led by Mark Horodowicz. The pneumatics team created an arm that used compressed air as its muscle power. Enabling this arm to make a wide swing in two different directions very quickly.  Senior Class President Damien Bretall was the project leader and monitored the teams’ progress along the way.

     The building blocks for this project were, for the most part, provided by Glen Arm based Lenox Laser. They are the world leader in what is known as “small hole” technology. Put simply, they drill microscopic holes in metals and other objects with Lasers. They also have designed a unique kind of building block technology called “e-Blox” that allows for rapid setup of everything from workstations to furniture. Yes, even robotic arms, legs, feet and hands.

     The DC Motor team worked on the construction of the robotic arm and completed the project in about 8 hours with the guidance and direction of teacher Dennis Hearn. They used e-Blox components from Lenox Laser, as well as some common items. Their finished project was able to lift a ball with the arm from many different angles using the electrical motors.

     The Pneumatics team worked on the construction of their robotic arm and completed the project in about 8 hours. The team was also guided by teacher Dennis Hearn, and used e-Blox components provided by Lenox Laser as well.

     In the end, the Robotic Arms were on display and demonstrated for attendees, some from major technical corporations, at the Lenox Laser annual Christmas party held on December 7, 2001. A few days later, both teams were presented with award certificates from Lenox Laser President Joseph d’Entremont who watched with great joy and admiration as both teams demonstrated their “arms.”

     When asked about their experiences, comments from team members ranged from “awesome experience” to I can’t wait to do something like this again!”  Team members from both sides had a great sense of accomplishment and pride at what they could do when they worked together showing some initiative and imagination and used some relatively new technology, namely the Lenox Laser e-Blox. These students created even newer technology that someday may change the way we do things in this world.

     It seemed that even when this competition was finished, and the students stood admiring their work, they were still thinking and talking of ways to “do it better next time.” Their sense of excitement, motivation, drive and desire to do more, not even satisfied at the end of the challenge. We can be proud of these fine students from Parkville High School. They will be building the future of technology.

By: Donald R. Schroth