High school robot designers do battle at Cal U.

April 19, 2013
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Brandon Werner of Monongahela fine-tunes Ringgold High School’s robot before it enters the ring Friday at California University of Pennsylvania. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis, center, chats Friday with students from Western Area Career & Technology Center in Houston about the robot they entered into a competition at California University of Pennsylvania. Order a Print
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Scott Beveridge / Observer-Reporter
Haylee Vujanovich of Burgettstown discusses robot strategy Friday with her teacher, Al Kammenzind of Western Area Career & Technology Center, after her team lost a match against Admiral Peary Vocational-Technical School. Order a Print

CALIFORNIA – Ringgold High School students designed their small robot with power in mind.

The small, remote-controlled gadget named Wedge Over Mammy sits low to the ground and has several jagged teeth protruding from its sides designed to slam its competition against the wall to pin it down.

“Our main strategy is strong and simple,” said robot technician Brandon Werner, 16, of Monongahela, before Wedge Over Mammy entered the fighting Friday at BotsIQ at California University of Pennsylvania.

“I think we got this,” added classmate Katelynn Hill. “A simple design has less problems, more winning.”

Forty schools brought a total of 560 students from across Southwestern Pennsylvania to the university for BotsIQ, Cal U. spokeswoman Christine Kindl said.

The program began in 2005 with just six participating schools as an effort of the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association to address an aging manufacturing workforce by offering students advanced robotics training.

“There is a huge push in Western Pennsylvania to put this into the curriculum and get these kids ready for the workforce,” said Larry Johnson, Ringgold’s technology education teacher.

The school teams entered their robots in cage fights Friday and today on the main floor of Cal U.’s convocation center.

“You basically want to disable the other robot and return home,” Johnson said.

Students at Western Area Career & Technology Center in Houston also participated and lost their first bout against Admiral Peary Vocational-Technical School in Ebensburg.

“We’re in the losers’ bracket right now. It’s OK,” said Western Area student Haylee Vujanovich, 17, of Burgettstown.

This school is proud of its accomplishments because the robots built there in the past three years have not had a component fail in a competition, said Western Area machine shop teacher Al Kammenzind.

“We were up against a very good weapon today,” Kammenzind said.

Pennsylvania Education Secretary Ron Tomalis was drawn to the games Friday and took time to visit the Western Area student workshop.

“You guys are merciless, aren’t you?” Tomalis said upon inspecting that team’s robot.

He said BotsIQ gives students a fun, practical experience, learning leadership and teamwork with great teachers.

“This is something you wouldn’t get in a regular classroom,” Tomalis said. “There are certainly more ways than one to measure success in education.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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