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Students build machines that can lift children's toys

LOGANVILLE - Grayson High School students in Charles Kachmar's Engineering III class are lifting, pinching, scooping and shoveling their way through Gwinnett County's Academic Knowledge and Skills curriculum.

The 10th- through 12th-grade students are using Vex Robotics kits to build robots that can lift children's toys and place them in a toy chest, said Kachmar, an engineering and technology education teacher.

The class, which has been divided into seven teams, will use the robots to compete today through Friday for a chance to go to the annual state Technology Student Association's competition in April in Perry, Kachmar said.

During the classroom competition, the students get bonus points if they can use the robot to close the lid to the toy chest and pick up a cup and place it upright on the chest. They get even more points if they can grasp a bar that is 2 feet off the ground and lift the robot 1 inch.

On Tuesday, the day before the robots were to perform in the classroom competition, students tweaked their designs.

Jeremy Gilbert, 18, said he and his team went through about 12 ideas before settling on the design they are entering in the competition.

His team, the black team, has settled on an idea that was "simple," said Gilbert, a senior. "Simple's the key."

Gilbert and his classmates, many of whom aspire to be engineers, said the competition gives them hands-on experience that helps them learn the principles taught in the class.

Lucas Gillelland, a 17-year-old junior, said the work ties in with his physics class. He said he's learned so much that he advanced from a college preparatory class to an Advanced Placement class.

Kachmar agrees the students are getting a good foundation for college.

"Look at how many ... kids I'm affecting," Kachmar said, as he gestured toward his students. "Every one of these kids has a good grasp and understanding of electrical systems, power systems and remotes."