Robotics team heading to world championship

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Sara Van Cleve
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A group of high school students from Faith Christian Academy have expanded their educations out of the classroom and into the international arena.

Faith Christian Academy’s VEX Robotics team, The Fuse, is on its way to the world championship in Anaheim, Calif., for the fifth consecutive year after taking first and second with its two robots at a state competition Feb. 17 at Colorado State University Pueblo.

In April, the team will compete against 5,800 other teams from 20 countries during the world competition.

“This is one of Faith Christian Academy’s ways of introducing high tech equipment to students in way that are being encouraged by local and federal governments,” said mentor Jarrid Gross.

Gross referred to the STEM initiative, which encourages schools to put a stronger focus on science, technology, engineering and math so the United States can remain competitive in the global marketplace.

The VEX Robotics competition requires students to create a new robot to compete in a different task each year. For 2012-13, the robots must work in teams to move bean bags from the ground into troughs and onto stands.

The robot runs autonomously for the first 15 seconds, meaning the students must program its software to be able to complete the task, and is then controlled by students for one minute and 45 seconds.

“The students do everything,” said mentor Craig Jameson. “They do all of the wiring, all of the construction and all of the programming.”

At the end of the two minutes, the team with the most bean bags in its trough wins. In the state competition, The Fuse’s robots were paired against each other in the final, making it possible for them to rank first and second.

The process of building a robot can take months, Jameson said.

“It gives them hands-on experience into practical science,” he said. “They have an idea of what they want to do, they build it and find out it’s not what they wanted to do. They get into it and then have to change the plan.”

The program teaches students everything from physics and mechanics to software engineering to technical writing, as each step has to be recorded throughout the process.

Students also learn skills such as public speaking as they visit with other schools, as young as elementary students, to talk about the program.

For two of the students, senior Michel Gross and sophomore Daichi Jameson, this extracurricular is preparing them for their future careers.

“I’m going to go into megatronics,” Michel said. “It’s building robots that are fully autonomous that have never been done before.”

Daichi said he hopes to go into software engineering in the future.

“VEX is awesome,” Daichi said. “You learn a lot about mechanics and software and how to collaborate with a team.”

The Fuse is funded solely through the students and fundraising. All mentors are volunteers and often parents of involved students.

Because of the high-cost to build the robots, the group is still fundraising and accepting sponsorships for their trip to the world competition in Anaheim April 17-20.

There are four levels of sponsorship available — bronze, $100 or more; silver, $250 or more; gold, $500 or more; and platinum, $1,000 or more.

Bronze sponsors receive a framed certificate of sponsorship with photos of the robots and team; silver receives a name or logo on team shirts; gold has a logo placed on the robot; and platinum has a logo on the team banner displayed at VEX competitions.

For more information about how to donate or become a sponsor, email robotics@fca-schools.org.