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High-schoolers lead the team, educate younger students on benefits of robotics

"Colton High School's robotics team is entirely student-led," said team adviser Allan Bruner. "We don't have the mentors and sponsors the way bigger schools do. Our kids do it all, and it is amazing to watch."

The five-member team made up of Cameron Clark, Reed Schrosk, Christian Weinberger, Anna Wimsatt and Peter Woodward, get together three to four days a week to work on their competition robots.

COURTESY PHOTO: ALLAN BRUNER - The CHS Robotics team members are (from left to right): Cameron Clark, Peter Woodward, Reed Schrosk, Christian Weinberger and Anna Wimsatt.

Last fall, while the drama kids were practicing in an adjacent room under Bruner's direction, the robotics team was getting ready for the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Rover Ruckus competition presented by Qualcom. The FIRST website describes this year's challenge as an out-of-this-world space-themed game.

In robotics the students have to work collaboratively to build a robot that will work successfully in the competition using science, technology, engineering and math concepts.

In an email, CHS senior Cameron Clark said, "The goal of this year's competition was to build a robot that could complete the tasks of picking up and moving blocks into a "lander" or "depot" (the depot was another designated spot where we could put our collected blocks). Each block is worth a different amount of points, so going for the higher scoring ones allows us to get as many points as possible without having to get as many blocks.

"We also had to detach and reattach to the lander getting us more points (in the end we couldn't get this part of our robot to work, but in the process of building, we learned a lot of what not to do next time). There was a few other ways to get points, like parking the robot in the crater that was full of the blocks, and getting the robot to do things in the autonomous (mode)."

Bruner said one of the best aspects of participating in FIRST Robotics is the $18 million offered in scholarships.

He said it is also good to have robotics participation on a resume for either a job or college application, as each competition comes not only with problem solving, but each team needs to do an oral presentation with a follow-up interview by the judges. He said skills learned in this process are looked upon favorably for future endeavors.

For his senior project, Cameron Clark is sharing the robotics team experience with middle school and elementary school students. He wants to inspire students to join the teams and learn to work together in design, construction, programming and coding.

"If anyone is leaning towards a career that uses technology, robotics would be very helpful," Clark said. "Designing, building and coding of the robot will lead to a better understanding of what a career in that field would be like."

Clark says being part of robotics makes you think, and the challenges to make and program the robot are not only science and math driven, but take creative thinking, research and learning to try and fail and come up with new ideas to get the robot back on the field.

Bruner gives kudos to district Superintendent Koreen Barreras-Brown, who does a lot to make sure funding is provided for the robotics team. There is also funding available from the Oregon Department of Education. With those monies, the team was able to pay national and tournament fees, and the district supported transportation.

Most schools, with the help of local tech and engineering companies, have funding and space to have practice fields. Colton doesn't have this advantage; but if you want to help inspire students at the local school, if you want to see first-hand how the students take the challenge and the inspiration and intelligence they bring to the project, then call the school, 503-824-2311 and ask to talk to Bruner.

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