10/12/13 — Local 4-Hers win robot contest

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Local 4-Hers win robot contest

By Josh Ellerbrock
Published in News on October 12, 2013 11:57 PM

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The Roto Raptors Team 3737, Goldsboro's own robot team, placed first in the N.C. FIRST off-season robot competition held in Reidsville last Saturday. From left, back row: Kristen Alley, Sarah Gregory, Christopher Finch, Ben Flynn, Amber Trivette; middle row: Somesh Herath, Joshua Spence, Daniel Spence, Jacob Tucker; front row: Kaveen Herath, Stephen Finch, Emily Ames, Taylor Heeden and Braxton Rhodes.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to build a first class robot.

Actually, it can be done by a few talented high school students.

The 4-H Robotics Club claimed first place in the first-ever North Carolina off-season regional robot competition, known as THOR (Thundering Herds of Robots), held in Reidsville last Saturday.

Also known as Roto Raptors Team 3737 in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science) Robotics Competition circles, the local 4-H Robotics Club consists primarily of high school students who put together a remote-controlled robot custom-made for competition. Last season, which started last January, the team built "Velociraptor" -- a Frisbee-shooting, bar-swinging mechanical box.

Competitions consist of three-on-three alliances where robots shoot plastic discs into slots. Extra points can be made by climbing a steel pyramid.

Last March, Velociraptor competed in the N.C. regional event where the team placed 12 out of 55.

But during the off-season regional competition held last Saturday, the team was able to use Velociraptor again.

And thanks to a little luck, some sideline repairs and some masterful driving, the team was able to cinch the grand champion trophy away from 12 other North Carolina teams.

Coach Anne Finch described her experience after the win with one word -- "elated."

"Stephen (her son) said, 'It must be wonderful to watch the people down on the field as they win.' And it was when we won it. It was very exciting," Mrs. Finch said.

But what was even more impressive to her was how members of the team were able to overcome some technical difficulties.

Velociraptor came back to win it after two major mishaps.

The first was a tumble off the team's cart when one team member accidentally accelerated the robot forward. During the fall, the two rods that gave motion to the robot's aiming system bent, giving the robot a major wobble. That led to the robot's second mishap.

During one of the last matches, one of the robot's four wheels snapped in half. The Roto Raptors didn't bring extras, and it looked like they were dead in the water, Mrs. Finch said.

"Thanks to the nature of FIRST, we were given the wheel. I was so impressed by the boys who changed the wheel. They did such an excellent job. It took about 15 minutes, and we were back in the game," she said.

Afterward, the team celebrated at Chick-fil-A, and one team member even splurged by buying a milkshake.

"It's given the team more confidence that they're a viable team, especially considering we're from a rural area where there are not as many resources," Mrs. Finch said. "We didn't consider we would win, but just having the award is so unique.

"We want to give thanks to everybody in the community for helping us. We couldn't have done it without you. This team is not just this group of students and this group of mentors. It piggybacks off the years before to get to this."