Helias Robotics Club gears up for competition season by Kaden Quinn

As the third quarter begins to wind down, the Robotics Club gains momentum. Within the preceding months under the leadership of Tim Backes, science teacher, and captains, Ben Niekamp and Peter Kovar, the Helias Robotics Club has made their presence known. Entering and placing in several competitions, the Robotics Club has proven that their ingenuity and creativity are being put to the test, placing third out of 23 teams in the state qualifier.

With scheduled meetings twice a week, Robotics Club members strive to improve their engineering skills. Similar to an athletic team, robotics team members review their strengths and weaknesses from competitions, so that they may enhance their performance in future meets. These weekly meetings also provide the club members with the opportunity to create and perfect their robots, as well as fine tune their synergy.

Tasks at hand within both meetings and competitions consist of complex acts to manipulate the robot to perform a complicated maneuver. For example, according to Adam Veit, de facto captain, “our current task is to lift an exercise ball onto a basket that can freely rotate.” Each completed task accumulates points for the team during competition. Points are given depending on difficulty. The team is currently working on a program to be used during the autonomous period of a competition. In the period, the robot needs to be able to move freely without being touched by a controller. This is achieved through a fixed program set into a smart phone that transmits signals to the robot for movement. Most points are awarded during autonomous period.

“[Autonomous period] points are harder to score because of programing,” Captain Ben Niekamp said.

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The Robotics Club depends on their captains, their teammates and their materials in order to succeed. With the recent closing of Barnes & Noble, the Robotics Club received an arsenal of new robots and supplies to add to their already robust collection. Due to the club’s involvement in and promotion of Barnes & Noble’s Maker’s Fair two years ago, the club was given a majority of the remaining demonstration equipment to help expand and enhance the club’s efforts when Barnes & Noble closed recently.

“We received a 3D printer from Barnes & Noble that’s pretty nice, much better than our old one,” said Captain Peter Kovar. Member Raymond Helmig added, “A second 3D printer will allow us to double our output.” “We also received a Meccanoid which is a child-size robot we will use for community outreach to interact with children.”

The self-proclaimed “robo-nerds” are enthusiastic about using their new donations to accelerate their winning potential. The new equipment has already come into use with the 3D printer creating useable parts that complete the robots and help them finish specific tasks. With the continued good fortune of the team, Robotics Club is gearing toward more competitions and future wins.

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