A Homewood-Flossmoor High School robotics team won one of the division trophies in the first SouthWorks Engineering and Robotics Olympics on Saturday, April 8, hosted by the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association (SSMMA).
The 15 participating high school teams broke in to five groups. H-F had two teams in the competition competing against each other in their group of six competitors. The objective was to use the robot to pick up balls and place them in buckets along a designated perimeter. After four rounds, one of the two H-F teams won first place in the division.
Students representing H-F were seniors Nathaniel Bouchie, Lillian Gosha, Caroline Madden, Gabrielle Pizza, Matthew Scholefield, Thomas Simon and junior Tara Thrall.
When H-F learned of the competition, Counselor Roberto Suarez, who has been working with the Underwater Robotics Club, agreed to get the team prepared for the event. Pizza organized the second team, the Girls STEM Club, this year.
Although the H-F students registered as two teams, students said they worked collaboratively throughout the three months spent designing and building two ClawBot VEX robots.
Several students had taken H-F’s Project Lead the Way courses that focus on engineering and architecture.
“We did VEX robotics in that (Project Lead the Way) Principles of Engineering class,” said Tara. “It basically taught you everything you need to do this: the programming, how to use different types of motors and sensors. I was attracted to this (competition) because I’d already done it in that class.”
Nathaniel said students met twice a week, but as the competition neared they spent additional time making adjustments. It was his first time building a robot. He plans to major in engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology next fall.
SSMMA got sponsors for the 15 teams. Whiting Corp. provided funding and support to H-F. Jeff Kahn of Whiting Corp. said he chose the high school because he lives in Flossmoor and his children are H-F graduates.
Corey Bingham, an electrical engineer with Whiting Corp., met with the students several times to explain the type of work he does and to give them pointers as they built their robots.
Reggie Greenwood of SSMMA said this first olympics was meant to “connect manufacturers in our area to students” in an effort to introduce them to their future engineers and to help stimulate “a more robust economy in the region.”
The success of the program convinced him to organize a competition for 2018. He said he will consider expanding it to include junior colleges. Eventually he hopes to reach into middle schools.
Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle presented the winners with trophies. She said she was encouraged by the interaction of students and business leaders.
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