GHS students take on robotics challenge this weekend

Published 3:50 pm Friday, March 18, 2011

A group of Greenville High School students will be vying for high-tech supremacy in a battle of the ‘bots this weekend in Selma.

Lead by GHS teacher Brandon Wendling, a dozen students who are part of a simulated company known as Techno-Botic Solutions will be going up against 24 other high school and middle school robotics teams from across the state during “Game Day: The Great Freight Challenge” in the Wallace Community College Gymnasium.

The event is sponsored by Friends of Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology (BEST) in Alabama. BEST, launched in 2001 at Auburn University, is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization created to help inspire students to pursue careers in engineering, science, technology and math through participation in hands-on, real-life robotics challenge with all the excitement of a sports competition.

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An Alabama Workforce Development  Grant is providing a robot kit, software, training and curriculum for the schools participating in the 42-day program, which culminates with Saturday’s competition in Selma.

“The competitive objective for my team is to build a robot from materials provided by the grant and to develop software code to manage the robot,” explained Wendling.

But there is a lot more to the competition than just constructing a robot, he adds.

“Our business, Techno-Botic Solutions, is more than just a competitive charade. We actually have 12 positions ranging from public relations officer to software engineers. We started developing this in late January and it will wrap up March 19,” Wendling said.

Two parallel competitions will take place in Selma: a robotics game, based on an annual theme with four teams competing at once in a series of three-minute, round-robin matches, and the BEST Award, presented to the team which best embodies the concept of Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology.

“We have been chronicling our journey from the beginning for our project engineering notebook. There will also be a sales and marketing presentation, exhibit booth, and we’ll be judged on our spirit and sportsmanship in the competition,” said Wendling. “It’s a great real world learning experience for these students.”

Game Day is an off-season robotics competition designed to raise awareness of the opportunities for schools, businesses and industries available through the program. Through the Great Freight Challenge, Greenville students and several hundred others were introduced to C-programming, a general purpose computer language program in widespread use.

The goal of the program, according to Friends of BEST, is to help students connect textbook knowledge with business principles and workforce skills to help develop strong work ethics and greater knowledge of future workforce opportunities.