TechHOUNDS gears up to compete in St. Louis

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By: Sarah Sheafer <ssheafer@hilite.org>

After six weeks of hard work and preparation, the TechHOUNDS team finally finished the robot. The team is in St. Louis for the regional competition. All David O’Brien, team member and sophomore, can do is hope the team is ready.

This is O’Brien’s second year on the team and he said that he thinks the team will perform better this year than last due to the construction of this year’s robot, but that situations could go wrong. Last year at the competition, for example, the team had problems with the robot. “The wooden arms kept falling off and the robot would tip over because it only had four wheels instead of six,” he said.

O’Brien said the team learned from these mistakes and is now prepared for the competition that it faces today and the next two days. Yesterday, the teams were scheduled to go through practicing rounds. Qualifying rounds are today and tomorrow, and Sunday is the final round.

George Giltner, team sponsor and industrial technology teacher, said that the robot is the main point in the competition. “The objective (of the competition) is to get the robot across the finish line in a certain amount of time and score as many points as possible on the way within a two-minute time limit,” he said.

According to O’Brien, the teams may score points during both the hybrid period, which is when the pre-programmed commands are used to operate the robot, and the teleoperated period, which is when the teams have complete control of the robot. In order to score points, the teams must move their robots in a counter-clockwise direction along the track while passing trackballs under the overpass, which is the center bridge, or hurdling the trackballs over the overpass for extra points.

Along with the St. Louis Regional Competition, the TechHOUNDS will also attend the Purdue Regional Competition and the Atlanta International Competition. At the Atlanta competition, 500 teams across the world will compete. Daniel Potash, team leader and senior, said that TechHOUNDS consists of approximately 55 members. The team had lost about 15 seniors last year but has gained 15 or more freshmen this year.

Potash said he encourages students to join the team because there are many benefits and scholarship opportunities. “TechHOUNDS is associated with an international organization called FIRST, which stands for ‘For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.’ And they’re the ones who cover the tax of the robot,” Potash said.

The team has also created a new design for their web site this year. “There have been several versions in the past, but this year we have updated the site with a brand new look,” O’Brien said. “The website is mainly for communication purposes and not only for students and mentors within the team, but also for our community. We have content for everyone, including explanations of who we are and what is FIRST, pictures, meetings and member information. Even if some readers are not interested in robotics, they should definitely visit our site. It was completely student-made.”

Giltner said there are not only scholarship opportunities with FIRST but with other sponsors as well. “FIRST gives out several million dollars a year to students. We have sponsors that give donations to the students, too,” he said. “The Purdue competition that we go to offers various scholarships opportunities and we’ve already had three seniors that won Purdue Scholarships.”

Even though this is Potash’s last year here, he said that he has learned a lot from the team. “Because we’re so crunched for time (in this school), teachers have to abide by what they want to teach because they only have a certain amount of time to teach that goal,” he said.

“We’re able to take skills that we learned in the classroom and actually apply it to something real in life,” he said. “It’s really a neat experience to see the math that I’m learning in class and everybody always asks the question, ‘What am I really going to use this for?’ and I’m actually using it and seeing what I’m doing with it.”

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