Student-built robots taking over local schools

HOUGHTON — While several U.P. middle school robotics teams have returned home safely from a trip to Battle Creek after competing in the state robotics championship, their high school counterparts are just getting started.

Houghton Middle School was one of the teams to travel to Battle Creek, and they built some pretty impressive machines.

“There are a lot of parts that I didn’t know about and tools that are just mind blowing,” said team member Cecilia Ong.

The robots are remote controlled. The team has figured out a way to hack a couple of cell phones, and plug in video game controllers to give their creation some basic commands.

“We have two game pads, Driver and Operator. The driver makes the robot turn and the operator does, basically, all the other stuff,” said team members Josh Damsteegt and Quinn Aho.

As part of the competition, each team is given a set of tasks to complete while racing their opponent.

“Our robot, as you can see, is cubic shaped. We designed a edge in the back round and a raised wheel to help us get up on these boards,” said team member Walker Hill.

Climbing onto a platform was one of the requirements for this year’s middle school competition. Team Leader Melody Doig says that while the middle school team hopes to do better next year, the Houghton High School Robotics Team is anxiously awaiting the build requirements for their level of competition.

“As of right now we have no idea what it is, but the first Saturday in January it will be released. Then, we will have six weeks to design and build and test a hopefully working robot, and then we will take it to two district competitions and hopefully earn our way to states like we did this past year. Then, after that, we can hopefully earn our way to Worlds like we did in 2014 and 2015,” said Danielle Lund of the Houghton High School Robotics Team.

The Worlds competition will be held in Detroit in April.

Last year’s challenge required students to build a bot capable of shooting basket balls. While the team can’t start on the new build until the game is released, they are currently spending over 20 hours a week making adjustments and testing new ideas on on last year’s robot as practice.