The Allen County Intermediate Center (ACIC) Junior Beta Robotics Team placed among the Top 10 at the National Junior Beta Convention last week at Walt Disney’s Dolphin Swan Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Robotics team---which was second in Kentucky Junior Beta state competition earlier in the year---included outgoing sixth graders Alec Doolin, Xavier Knight, Embry Pierce, Wil Pitchford, and Aaron Shain.
“This is an amazing accomplishment considering this is the very first year for the robotics division,” noted ACIC Junior Beta sponsor Kellie Stinson. “ACIC’s team has spent countless hours and given up numerous days of their summer while being coached by Aaron Boggess. Without Aaron and his wife Tamela, a retired ACIC teacher, this victory and opportunity to compete nationally would not have been possible. We are grateful for their time and patience with our students and this endeavor.”
According to Stinson, Robotics Showcase is an open-ended, inquiry-based program.
“The students find solutions, strategies, and designs from an infinite number of possibilities,” Stinson noted. “Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education is used to identify activities involving any of these four areas, a STEM-related course, or an interconnected or integrated program of study. The Robotics Showcase incorporates all four areas of study and integrates each of them throughout the design, programming, construction, and implementation of the robot for the competition. During the creative process and competition students utilize critical thinking, decision making, collaboration, analytical skills, computational thinking, problem solving, effective communication, and presentation skills. The Robotics team received points based on innovation, mission strategy, automation/navigation, robot durability and complexity, design process, overall quality, and team collaboration.”
Aaron Boggess---the owner of Hobbytown in Bowling Green----and his wife stepped in to help coach the Robotics team, a first-year category of team competition for Junior Beta students across the nation.
“My wife volunteered me,” Boggess explained. “We brought the boys in and asked them what they wanted to do. They decided to do something with the idea of a robotic arm. We didn’t have a good idea of what was being looked for (by the judges) because it was not really stressed. The guidelines just said the robot needed to move, shake, and create. Our robot had an ultrasonic sensor as it followed a line. If it detected something in the way it would stop and use the robotic arm to pick the obstacle up and place it on the robot before moving along. We got the boys involved with the assembly and construction. I also tried to teach them about how everything worked.”
The students traveled to Bowling Green in the weeks leading up to the National Convention to continue to work on the project. Along the way, the students were learning more and more about the technology behind the robot.
“A couple of the boys really got into doing the programming,” Boggess added. “We used YouTube to learn about Arduino programing. We learned how to do Arduino and how to do modifications. At the end we were able to adjust the motor speed, thus having the robot move at different speeds. They learned how to adjust how far the ultrasonic sensor would detect, and do fine tuning. It was a first-step for them.”
Boggess pointed out that the robotics team discovered some of the same things that college kids are learning.
“We were doing stuff similar to what students are doing at the college level at Western,” Boggess said. “I was very impressed with our boys. They were a great group. We were in the mix despite not really knowing what the judges were looking for.”
The team’s exact final placement was not in the top five but was among the top ten.
In addition to the Junior Beta Robotics team, the fifth and sixth grade Tower of Power teams (Divisions I and II) were also eligible to compete at the national level after receiving first and second place respectively at the state level in Lexington last February. Fifth grade Tower of Power students included Nicole Morgan, Trace Penick, Taylor Temple, Parker Thompson, and Emma Vick. Sixth grade Tower of Power students were Rafe Blankenship, Karsyn Carter, Peyton Cope, Sara Beth Meador, and Tucker Scott. Despite a strong effort, the Tower of Power teams were not in the final top 10.
In individual competition at the National level, Sara Wright competed in the essay, Division I competition. Wright---who took third place honors at state---did not place in the top 10.
Stinson and ACIC Junior Beta sponsors Taylor Carver, Baillie York, and Julie Spurlock thank parents and the community for their continued support of the Junior Beta Club at the Intermediate Center. Planning is already underway for the 2018 state competition January 28-30 in Lexington. Nationals will be held in Savannah Georgia, June 13-16, 2018.