Walking the halls of Brookings-Harbor High School — listen closely. In addition to the normal bells and buzzers that signal classroom changes and lunch breaks, one might just hear the unusual whirs, beeps, chinks and clunks coming from the robotics class.
Images of science fiction robots — even the dreaded Terminator — come to mind. But the students are working on robots that are of the human-friendly variety.
The students in teacher Al Chirinian’s robotics class are doing what they love — building highly functional, smartly-designed, metallic servants that may, one day, free mankind from mundane tasks.
Along the way, the students become well versed in science, technology, engineering, and math.
On Saturday, Chirinian and the students celebrated and demonstrated their robotic creations during a special dinner and fundraising event at the Brookings VFW Hall. They were joined by family, friends, and Oregon State Rep. Wayne Krieger.
The BHHS Robotics Team, or “Team 4110” of the NASA Robotics Alliance Project, unveiled for their guests the first student-made Three Dimensional (3-D) printer in the state of Oregon. They also presented their fully-functional “Ball Bot” – a robot with the capability of joining other robots in a scoring game that is a cross between soccer, hockey and basketball, with a bit of demolition derby thrown in just for fun.
Carl King opened up the meeting representing the prestigious 484 Phi Alpha Foundation and was the keynote speaker. King applauded the hard work of the BHHS students.
“The sky is the limit for these fine students who are applying themselves every day in the classroom,” he said.
King, a graduate of Massachusetts Institution of Technology (M.I.T.), was impressed by what the Brookings students had achieved.
“I hope that some of you will consider going to school back East — we could use you!”
Chirinian used a Power Point presentation to illustrate what he called “the brilliance of what our kids achieved” when they participated in the Oregon State University (OSU) NASA Robotics Alliance Project.
“You should be proud,” he told the crowd. “Our kids went head-to-head, on a shoestring budget, and competed against 33 teams from around the state, including some huge schools in the Portland area that had the technological and financial resources to outspend us by four times, and you know what? Our Brookings kids beat two-thirds of them and ... I’m okay with that!”
Applause erupted across the room.
This year, the assignment for the 23 students in the robotics class was to build a “game bot” for the OSU competition. They placed their game bot into a three-against-three contest.
The game bots scored points by placing or moving a large ball into a square, open-ended metal cage, while trying to keep the other team’s three robots from doing the same.
The students on each team communicated via headsets.
BHHS students John Christopher and Adam Grosz worked together in the competition.
Grosz’ served as the bot’s main driver on the floor. He also helped with repairs and had a hand in designing the robot, along with Dylan Floras, Griffin Cerva, Justin Floras and Kevin Bramvilla.
Christopher’s task was to find parts and pieces for assembly and to scout out opposing teams to ascertain their strengths and weaknesses.
The two said the Brookings bot held up remarkably well in the competition.
“We didn’t realize how important the low center of gravity we gave our bot would be until we got into the game,” said Grosz.
According to the duo, other robot designers focused their efforts on what they termed “glory shooting” and had rigged their robots with elaborate catapult arms in the hopes of scoring points.
“That tended to make their robots top heavy and vulnerable to a bop,” said Christopher.
Grosz added, “Yeah, everyone found out early that if you rammed an opposing robot when it was getting ready to shoot, it would either miss its shot, or in some cases, have whole pieces break away!”
The Brookings’ 10-pound, six-wheel tank bot operates on a 12-volt battery, which powers the four, lightweight drive motors attached to two gear boxes.
“It makes our bot faster and able to turn quicker that other,” Christopher said.
Saturday’s dinner gave BHHS student Griffin Cerva a chance to display his “Griffin Bot.”
“It is a 3-D printer that is pressing two dimensional pictures into layer after layer and making three dimensional final products out of them,” Cerva said.
The Griffin Bot made key chains and a plaque in the shape of Oregon that were auctioned that night.
Representative Kreiger was impressed.
“This technology is an opportunity for these young people, even in rural settings like ours,” he said. “They are going to benefit all of their lives from it.”
Krieger was instrumental in getting $2.8 million in funding for statewide projects like the NASA Robotics Alliance Project.
“This is the future for our kids and I’m behind it,” Krieger said.
Chirinian couldn’t agree more.
“Technology is vitally important to our country and its future. Right now China is producing 10 times as many scientists, engineers, and mathematicians as the U.S. Companies are literally begging for graduate students and the jobs are there for kids from rural areas because this technology is open to all.”
Looking over at his students, Chirinian smiled.
“In the nine years I’ve been here, this group has been the best so far.”
To learn more about the BHHS Robotics team or to donate, visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/bhhsrobotics
A YouTube video of the game bots in action can be found at http://youtu.be/RlYVYyvywp0.