Students build robot for competition

HOSCHTON - One student moves the robot from side to side, using its seesawlike wooden structure to maneuver it in the right place. The other uses a remote control to control the robot so it removes one horizontal can and replaces it with a new one. In preparation for a statewide competition, Mill Creek High School students have built a robot that simulates removing and replacing batteries on the Hubble telescope.

Members of the Mill Creek Technology Student Association will compete against more than 20 other schools, including Norcross High School, in the Georgia BEST Robotic competition Saturday at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta. They were given six weeks to design a robot that replaced eight "batteries" on a replica of a large telescope in three minutes.

"Just like in the real world, they were required to do this with limited resources and under tight time constraints," said Glenn Burrows, the robotics team coach and a technical education teacher. "This is designed to simulate the real-world scenarios in which engineers must work."

The students have been so committed to building the robot that some of them came in on a school holiday to work on it earlier this month. They worked from 7:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. Among them was senior Maurice Williams, who said he enjoyed using his hands to build the robot. It involved the same kinds of skills as building a computer, which he did earlier this year.

"You just get to see what you're doing, creating something and putting it to use," Williams said.

Burrows promoted the program through his technical education classes. Out of 35 students in the Technology Student Association, he chose 15 to participate in the competition. Each student had to get two recommendations and apply for a position on the Robotics team.

The robotics project allowed students to utilize their individual talents to design the model, put it together, design the team's Web site or the presentation. Sophomore Scott Lockwood put together a multimedia presentation using music, a digital editing program and dozens of photographs. The students will show it at the competition on Saturday.

"I get to use something I know how to use, something I'm good at," Lockwood said. "And it's just a way to express my talent."

For sophomore Jeff Burleson, the Technology Student Association and an introductory engineering class made him more certain of what he wants to do with his life. He was debating between going into architecture or engineering, and has said he enjoyed the process of helping design the robot.

"I can design houses, or I can try to make new things," Burleson said. "And I think that's a fun challenge, trying to design new things."

If Mill Creek is one of the top teams in this weekend's competition, the team will proceed to the regional BEST Robotics competition at Auburn University. The national competition was founded in 1994 as a way of promoting careers in engineering and science.

The Mill Creek Robotics Web site can be found at http://www.arches.uga.edu/~spencer7/robotics. For more information on the BEST robotics competition, go to http://www.georgiabest.org.