Naomi Stevenson, left, Brian Luke, middle, and Christina Cooper are designing a mechanism that will allow a robot to shoot a basketball Tuesday at Niles High School. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Students create hoops-playing robot

Published 6:14pm Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Many of the students in Niles High School’s robotics club don’t have the skills to excel on a basketball court.

But they know how to build a robot that can.

And while the club’s latest creation won’t be replacing Lebron James anytime soon, the robot is being designed to nail an open jump shot with surprising accuracy.

“It will be interesting and a challenge to get this thing working,” said Niles sophomore Orion Tweedy.

As ‘real world’ as it gets

The Niles Robotics Club is one of thousands of clubs across the nation competing in the FIRST Robotics Competition’s (FRC) game “Rebound Rumble.” The goal for each team is to build a robot capable of making as many baskets as possible within an allotted time, among other things.

FRC revealed the game to the world in January, giving each team six weeks to create the robot. The teams’ robots will compete against each other next month to see who advances to the FRC World Championships.

One of the competitions will take place March 23-24 at Niles High School.

Robotics club coach Wayne Borr said the competition is about as “real world” as it gets.

“We basically have six weeks to create a $6,000 robot,” he said. “There are no directions, there are no instructions. They give you two big bins of robotics components, you watch a two-minute animated video showing what the challenge is and then it’s up to you.”

Playing the role

The robotics club has about 18 students, most from Niles High School. All play their own role on the team, which meets every night after school like any other school team.

Sophomore Alexis Morrison is handling the team’s social networking duties, like the Facebook page, Twitter account and blog.

“It is fun because you get to be silly. I like to post random things like ‘guess what our robot can move like three inches — yay! Accomplishment!’” Morrison said.

When Morrison first learned of the project she was skeptical. She has since changed her outlook.

“Us doing what major companies do in like six weeks is amazing,” she said. “I am so proud of our hardware and our software and how they can communicate this well and get our robot working.”

Senior Jon Hollister, a home school student, is the head of the team’s software department. His main duty is to write the computer code that will program the robot to perform.

The most challenging part for him has been learning how to be a good leader.

“There have been a couple nights when people have gotten agitated when something isn’t going just right and its’ been interesting trying to diffuse the issues,” he said.

There is group of students designing T-shirts, brochures and buttons for the club and another devoted to creating and running the club’s website,

Members of the club’s business team are in charge of getting sponsors and the hardware team takes the lead in designing and constructing the robot.

Just like a football team, all the parts have to work together to make the team successful.

“It is kind of a super team for Niles High School because it has something for everybody,” Borr said. “If you don’t like building the robot, you can do the business side or the website. There are a lot of options.”

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