Peachtree High's Robolions gear up for regional competition

SUWANEE - Robots aren't known for their athletic abilities. But soon they will be competing to see which one can make the most "baskets" in two minutes into tall wooden targets.

Peachtree Ridge High School's Robolions have been working on their robot for weeks, hoping to duplicate their performance last year of beating dozens of other teams to win the regional championship.

The 2006 FIRST Robotics Competition is titled "Aim High," reflecting its sports theme. For those teams whose robots can't shoot high enough, there is the option of "bowling" the balls into ground-level targets.

The high school students had only six weeks to put together a fully-functioning robot with good aim. Last year, they worked constantly the week before, making last-minute changes and testing their robot.

"For the last weekend, they're working 24/7," said Valerie Strain, a parent mentor. "It's so much like the real world when it comes to finishing up a project in


Her son, Michael Strain, 17, likes being vice president of the Robolions partially because the club offers a

great social environment while they're


"It's fun and it's basically it's the people I'd hang out with normally, and I just get to hang out after school," Strain said.

Community members, some of whom don't have any kids at Peachtree Ridge, have also contributed to the project. Several professional engineers stop by after school to help the students. One mentor recently donated a Dell laptop for the team to use while competing.

"Over the years, we've managed to attract a whole lot more mentors. We've also had more community support," said senior Matt Newcomb, president of the robotics club.

The Robolions will be shipping out their completed robot on Tuesday. The next time they will see it will be in a month at the annual Peachtree Regional competition.

The tournament will be held at the Gwinnett Center on March 16-18. The Robolions will be up against 32 teams from other Southeastern states, Michigan and New York.

Teams that win the regional competition will advance to the national competition in April at the Georgia Dome.

"I think in a way they want this to be the Super Bowl of robotics," said Diane Cass, the team's faculty advisor.

It may be a while before there's an all-star game between robots. But what the Robolions already know is that the excitement of athletics is infectious, whether it's humans or robots making the shots.

For more information on the regional robotics competition, visit www.peachtree