Danville Express

Newsfront - December 28, 2007

Go, robots

30 robots strut their stuff in 'savage' competition

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Thirty robots battled it out on the field at the second annual Savage Soccer Robotics Tournament on Dec. 15, and teams from San Ramon Valley High School took first and second place.

"We had 10 robots at the competition so we basically divided the class into groups of three and each worked on one robot," said San Ramon Valley High instructor Chris van Wolbeck. "This is the second year we've done it."

The winning team was Zach Dillow, Brian Suekesdorf and Brian Wells.

This year, the object was for a robot to scoop up a badminton birdie and place it in the scoring box. Each game lasted two minutes.

There were four robots on a playing field 8 feet by 12 feet. The robots, approximately a foot high, were programmed by the students to operate on their own for the first 15 seconds, and thereafter were remote-controlled by the students. Each team played several rounds.

Other high schools competing were Monte Vista High and Athenian School from Danville, California High from San Ramon, Chinese Christian Schools (from San Leandro), Hercules High School and Pittsburg High.

"We're in a robot revolution," said John Korzick, ROP Robotics Engineering instructor at California High School, which hosted the event. "It's where science, technology, engineering and math meet in the future."

He said there are approximately 6 billion humans and 4 million robots on earth now.

"How many robots will there be in 2020?" he asked.

The ROP robotics classes prepare students for the future. They work in teams, so they learn life skills and job skills along with academic content.

It is "hand-on, minds-on," Korzick said.

Savage Soccer was first introduced by college students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, where Korzick attended college. He thought it would be fun to hold a similar competition here.

Robotics competition combines the excitement of sport with science and technology to create a unique sport for the mind, said Jonathan B. Lance, communications specialist with the Contra Costa County Office of Education. Many of the participants who turn out for this competition are students in the ROP Robotics Engineering classes offered at local high schools by the Contra Costa County Office of Education. ROP courses are career-oriented and prepare students for jobs or further training and education in the field of their choice.

This local robotics competition also helps prepare students for the national competition sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) in the spring.

"We are going to start building our robot for FIRST right when we get back, Jan. 7," said van Wolbeck. "We won't find out what the game is going to be until the 5th."

For the FIRST competition, the teams must design, fabricate and test their robots during six weeks.

"We will be here until 9 o'clock every night," van Wolbeck said.

The FIRST competitions, three-day events, are held in late February and early March, and the San Ramon Valley High team will participate in San Jose and in Portland, Ore., said van Wolbeck. The competitions are held across the country with 1,500-2,000 schools participating.

"The nationals are held in Atlanta; you have to qualify for that," van Wolbeck said. "We have qualified for the last four years."

Van Wolbeck has been teaching the class at San Ramon Valley High for five years.

"The class is growing every year," he said.


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