On the Bright Side: Robotics team gears up for contest

Mark Boshnack | The Daily StarRobotics team captain Chase Thomas looks over electronics that will be used to build a robot at Oneonta Senior High School on Thursday.

A team from Oneonta High School has begun its work on building a robot to compete in this year’s FIRST competition. The Otsego 4-H FIRST Robotics team, RoboKronos, learned this year’s challenge on Jan. 3 and hopes to have a drivable chassis ready this weekend, one of those involved said Thursday.

“I just love this partnership,” 4-H program leader Patti Zellmer said about the program that she said gives area students opportunities they would not have anywhere else. The team of 19 high school students will develop life skills in the six weeks they have to build a robot to compete against others that are part of the international program, she said. They not only develop science, technology, engineering and math skills, but they learn to work as a team, she said. It involves not only 4-H and Oneonta High School, but area mentors, and the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology program.

The robot will be used in a regional competition to be held at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute March 19-21.

Lead mentor Paul Agoglia said the season began when teams around the world learned about the project. Titled “Recycle Rush,” it requires building a robot that can stack shipping crates. The team will earn extra points by putting items in recycling bins, which can also be placed on top of the stack.

The work started with brainstorming sessions to understand the challenges and start designing the machine. Working after school and on weekends, the 19 members and their mentors are “bench-testing” various ideas, he said. 

“The students are working very well together,” Agoglia said. “They know what they need to do” and he is expecting a “very competitive” design.

The team’s largest supporter is Corning Inc., which has supplied financial assistance as well as equipment and mentors. Medical Coaches has also been a big supporter, Agoglia said. Others have also contributed to the efforts in various ways.

Team captain, senior Chase Thomas, said he got involved as a freshman because the competition offered him an opportunity to learn computer programming and other skills not often taught in regular classes. 

“We think we have a good chance with our design,” Thomas said. This includes analyzing the rules to get as many points as possible in the competition. But what he likes best about the team is working with others and “learning skills that will help him in future endeavors,” he said. 

Other student members of the team are Adam Agolia, Benji Blacklock, Michelle Chen, Dylan Davidson, David DePauw, Michaela Frank, Kadin Goodspeed, Josh Grimm, Dan Mazzei, Andrew Morell, Meg Naraparau, Logan Pettit, Christian Platt, Gavin Smith, Andrew Stanton, Beth Straubel, Tanner Strignano and Linda Zheng. 

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