12/03/12 — Robotics team has chance to compete

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Robotics team has chance to compete

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 3, 2012 1:46 PM

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From left, Roto Raptors Daniel Alley, team captain, Joshua Spence, Daniel Spence, Joe Flynn, mentor, and Noah McDowell work on a project to build a robot. The local 4-H-sponsored team will again participate in the NCFIRST Robotics competition in Raleigh in March 2013.

The Roto Raptors, a local 4-H robotics team, has received a $5,000 NASA grant, which will cover the registration fee to participate in the NCFIRST Robotics Competition in the spring.

This is the third year Team 3737 will compete in the regional contest. Last year it placed 17th out of 53.

Daniel Alley, 17, a senior at Wayne School of Engineering, is team captain.

Every year the competition to build a robot is different, he said.

"They give us a kit at the beginning of the season," he said. "We have a list of things we can and cannot use but we're not limited to the kit.

"It's really cool. You get to work with a lot of people you don't normally get to work with. It's hands on engineering, programming and design."

Roto Raptors is a club for grades 8-12 in public and private as well as home schools. Sponsored by 4-H, it was formed in 2011.

"Any number can be on the team," Alley said. "Ours has around 15 to 20. We have been meeting every two weeks on Thursdays. As it gets closer, we'll meet more often."

Initially, the main obstacle was coming up with the $5,000 registration fee required by Dec. 7.

But that was resolved late last week when the group was notified about the grant.

"We have our registration fee so now we just need money to build," said Anne Finch, coach for the team. "We need funds for tools, there's equipment and supplies."

"We still have to cover our materials beyond the $5,000 and lodging," added Laura Alley, Daniel's mother.

The event takes place March 14-16 in Raleigh, at Dorton Arena.

The group has already collected several donations and continues to seek corporate sponsors.

"We have some other things pending," Mrs. Finch said. "We have done fundraisers. We're planning a kickstarter (online) fundraiser. People can actually go online and donate to that."

New members are also welcome, she added.

"(The team) is from all over the county, really, and that's kind of what 4-H enables us to do," Daniel said. "We don't really have enough people at one school to do this but because of 4-H we can draw in from all over."

The team could also use mentors, particularly in the areas of electrical and mechanical engineering, his mother said.

"It's six weeks that we're working," Mrs. Alley said. "The students are the ones that are going to be designing this."

The benefits to the preparation and competition are many, Daniel said.

"There's about $14.8 million in scholarships involved," he said. "But I would say it's more hands on than pretty much any other type of experience. You can take a class in CAD or electronics or programming but it's not really applying it.

"This is very hands on and what you get is, you have these kids that are trying to cooperate to build something on time, on budget, and that's something you don't really necessarily get in any other environment. It's real world-type stuff and they have to figure out ways to solve problems."

For more information, call 919-751-5701.

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to 4-H Robotics, 208 W. Chestnut Street, Goldsboro, N.C. 27530. Online donations can be made at Kickstarter.com and search for TEAM 3737.