High school engineers, programmers and machinists create a robot, By C.G. Moore Vernon Members of the robotics team at Vernon High School are headed to the Jacob Javits Center in New York City to defend their title as winner of last year’s international competition, when they placed first among 64 teams. The team, comprised of 15 boys and a girl, has been preparing their robot for competition for the last six weeks. All contestants are presented with the challenge on the same day, and start designing and building their machine according to the guidelines given them by FIRST competition administrators. The project for 2009 was to build a street sweeper type of vehicle that could move quickly and accurately while picking up woven round balls called orbit balls, and load them into a trailer pulled by the machine. The budget to build the machine, the dimensions and its weight, are all regulated. Computer 3-D imaging articulates the design and the team then works to develop their robot into a reality. The team collectively includes a design team, fabrication team and an electrical team. At the competition, six robots are placed in an arena and separated into two teams of three. The robot’s operator is in control remotely from just outside the field. Players are under the eye of referees who enforce all the game’s rules. Crazy for robots The young team’s victory in 2008 has raised interest in the club and its membership has grown. “Most of these kids go on to college and study engineering, technology or computer programming,” said teacher-advisor Andrew Ciaburri. “Robotics is a field that is very competitive and is growing rapidly,” he added. Team member Nick Yacullo is enthusiastic about the club. “Designing and building the robot is very exciting and participating in the game is just awesome. It takes a lot of work to get to the point of competition, and we are all excited to go to New York City and begin.” If successful at the New York City competition, the team will be eligible to again participate in The World Championship Competition held in Atlanta, and compete against top teams from nations all over the world. For more on the organization that hosts the competition, go to www.usfirst.org.