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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Student Showcase Features Highlands’ Successful Robotics Team

The Highlands High Robotics Team pose with their robot. They earned fifth place against 61 teams in a recent regional competition.
By Robin Gee

Students and faculty from Highlands High School’s robotics team introduced their current robot and presented on their successful and popular program at the March Fort Thomas school board meeting.

This year was the best year for the team yet in regional competition. They competed in the Miami Valley Regional at Wright State University against 61 teams taking fifth place and making it into quarter finals. 

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Highlands senior Magnus Sieverding introduced the team’s latest robot, which is about the size of a small go cart and weighs more than 100 pounds. "It always amazes me, when I say robots, people think of the LEGO® robots, the little robots that drive around on the table. People are always shocked at the size of these robots, and when you have six of them on a tennis court-sized field, it does sometimes get very out of hand...that’s we have the bumpers," he said.

"Last year we only managed to make it to seventh place. Two places up is a huge deal for us especially this year with so many new members... Our drive team and our operators are just completely new this year."

The robot was given several tasks at the competition, so Sieverding and other students on the team demonstrated driving the robot to run, swerve and pick up balls, known as "power cells" and carry them to a bin. Later the robot had to climb a bar and lift itself up off the floor, no simple feat for a robot of its size and weight.

He explained that in learning principles of robotics, size does matter. "Because these are so big, it’s real-world engineering. I want to go into engineering, aerospace engineering specifically, and this was great hands-on experience. I immediately fell in love with this. I was able to work on this robot, to get hands on, to experience what it’s like in the competition under stress and under time restrictions." 

Highlands robot in action, lifting itself up on a bar after gathering and depositing power cells.


Support of the team has been vital

Highlands teacher Tim Auch thanked the school board and the parents for their support of the team. He also thanked the Fort Thomas Education Foundation for a grant to support the team’s efforts.

"This was a team effort and everybody contributed. That’s why we have been so consistent and why we finished the best we’ve ever finished in a qualifying round. I’m very proud of this team and what they did," he said.

He explained that the team uses space in the Launch building to practice. It takes about seven weeks to build the robot and two weeks of practice with the robot. As with most technology, it’s never smooth sailing. Students learn how to identify and fix problems, sometimes on the spot. In fact, Sieverding described the team at the competition as similar to a pit crew.

First started 20 years ago, the robotics team has grown steadily and attracts a wide variety of students from all areas of interest. Mike Smith, one of the team’s mentors, has been with the program for about four years. "There all different kinds of students who would be interested in this. We see a lot of student athletes. It’s very competitive. We see students all over the range of STEM programs, science, technology, engineering," he said.

Sieverding praised Auch and team mentors Mike Smith and Bob Steller for their guidance and for developing a program that gives students the rich opportunities to build skills in robotics, which he deemed nothing less than "magnificent."

School board member Karen Allen noted that Steller has been with the program from the start and said the program would not be as vibrant as it is without his dedication and support.

Student team members presenting included: Lance Borden, Owen Borden, Lexi Crawford, Gannon Ehrman, David Erion, Logan Lutenkoff, Liam Morris, Declan O'Dea, Magnus Sieverding, Stefan Urbanek and Noah Wormald.

1 comment:

  1. This makes me so happy to see my old team doing great in regionals! Hard to believe it's been 20 years already. 554 rocks it out!