Before February the idea of a Booneville High School student working on a robot was probably best viewed as a post-graduation event.
Fast forward to today and a group of BHS students are less than two weeks away from their first FIRST (For Inspirational and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition, dubbed the Ozark Mountain Brawl which will be held on the campus of the Uinversity of Arkansas next weekend.
Members of the BHS FIRST Rocky Balboabots team showed off their work to school administrators and school board members last week in their work area at Rockline.
The Balboabots are actually well behind any other team that will be in the competition in Fayetteville. Other than it being their maiden voyage into the program, they are also having to build their robot, a task other teams competed for the 2014 national competition.
"We’re kind of time crunching to get our robot done," Lexi Danekas told school officials last week. "But we’re actually right on track."
The completion is termed Aerial Assist as the robot must be operated remotely to do various tasks including pick up a ball and throw it over a goal. The competition creates random alliances with other teams and will also pit those teams against each other in later rounds.
Once the competition starts any redesign issues, programming glitches or other issues that arise with the robots become the sole responsibility of the student team members.
"These guys haven’t experienced any of that yet which is why I’m kind of excited and nervous for them at the same time," said McCollough.
Because this has largely been a summer activity all of the half dozen or so members on the team are addressing all aspects of the work, including production, programming, construction, Danekas said.
She said once school starts and word spreads, she anticipates having a much larger team.
"It’s pretty cool," she said.
Besides the students the team includes adult mentors such as Rockline experts.
Rockline vice president Nick Santoleri pledged $5,000 for Booneville High School to start a FIRST robotics team during the Booneville Development Corporation/South Logan County Chamber of Commerce banquet in February.
Rockline also offered engineering expertise and space in their facility to operate the program but the pledge came as a match, conditional upon another $5,000 being raised to start the program. First Western Bank president Robert Herrera said the bank would match the funds as a chapter sponsor.
BDC/Chamber executive director and school board member Stacey McCollough is also a mentor.
After next weekend’s competition the team will be turning its attention to working out the bugs but will also be awaiting word on the 2015 game.
"Each year the game changes," said McCollough. "Each year they release a challenge and the kids have six weeks to design something to meet that challenge. These guys have only seen the aerial assist, they haven’t seen anything but that. And they try to do something they have never done before."