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January 4, 2014

Students gear up for robot competition

By Mark Boshnack Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — A member of the Otsego County 4-H FIRST Robotics Team 4203 said he was excited that another season of competition begins Saturday.

“I’m so psyched,” said Oneonta High School senior Chris Lenter. “It’s such an amazing experience,” leading up to the regional competition in mid-March, and possibly beyond, he said.

The team will find out what the year’s problem will be from a worldwide simulcast presented by the international nonprofit FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), with the help of NASA, at 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

Most of the 15 member team made up of Oneonta High School students will meet at 10 a.m. at the Main Street Masonic Lodge, along with parents and mentors, for the viewing, team leader Paul Agoglia said. A small group will travel to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to pick up the supplies FIRST provides, in time to see the simulcast there. The small group will return to Oneonta to join the start of the design process.

The group will meet until 4 p.m. Saturday and again from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday. After that, they will meet daily after school to design and build the robot in time for the competition, Agoglia said. “It’s an intense time.”

The first year the team, RoboKronos, participated, it had to design a robot that shoots baskets. It participated in the World Championships that year after receiving the Rookie All-Star Award. Last year’s robot had to toss a Frisbee.

With a more experienced team, the preseason seems to be running smoother, Agoglia said.

“We’ve been through it a few times, so we know what to expect,” he said, and the team is better-organized as well.

This will be Lentner’s third competition.

“It’s been a learning experience,” he said. “We have had to pick up the skills.”

Lentner is a leader of the programming team and has been helped by some online programs, web browsing and the experience of some mentors.

If the team wins at the regional level, it moves on to the world competition. But its a unique experience that has introduced Lentner to the concept of “cooperatition,” he said, where teams can help those they are also trying to beat.

Lentner said he has played several sports and has never seen anything like it.

“It makes the event more enjoyable,” he said. “Even if you don’t move on, you meet new people and learn new things that can be useful in other areas.”

Fundraising for the team continues, with about $16,000 raised of the $25,000 needed for the season. More information is available at robokronos.org., or the group’s Facebook page.