Davis High teams ready to test robots' mettle

Apr 15 2013 - 6:04am

Images

Nolan Dixon (left), Porter Burton (center) and Scott DeCow work on their robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. Davis High is sending four teams to the VEX Sack Attack competition in Anaheim, Calif., this week. Their driver-operated robots must pick up and move objects of various shapes in a timed period. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Porter Burton makes adjustments to a robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. Davis High is sending four teams to the VEX Sack Attack competition in Anaheim, Calif., this week. Their driver-operated robots must pick up and move objects of various shapes in a timed period. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Austin Langston works on his robot at Davis High School on Thursday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Kyle Storey controls his team's robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Nolan Dixon (left), Porter Burton (center) and Scott DeCow work on their robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. Davis High is sending four teams to the VEX Sack Attack competition in Anaheim, Calif., this week. Their driver-operated robots must pick up and move objects of various shapes in a timed period. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Porter Burton makes adjustments to a robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. Davis High is sending four teams to the VEX Sack Attack competition in Anaheim, Calif., this week. Their driver-operated robots must pick up and move objects of various shapes in a timed period. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Austin Langston works on his robot at Davis High School on Thursday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)
Kyle Storey controls his team's robot at Davis High School in Kaysville on Thursday. (NICK SHORT/Standard-Examiner)

KAYSVILLE -- Four teams from Davis High School have qualified for one of the biggest robotics competitions of the year, taking place this Thursday through Saturday in Anaheim, Calif.

More than 15,000 participants from middle schools, high schools and universities, representing 22 countries, will be competing in the VEX Sack Attack.

Only eight teams from Utah qualified in the high school division, with Davis High claiming half the slots. The teams are composed of 17 students and will be competing against 420 other high schools.

The competition is played on a square field in which two teams compete in various exercises with driver-operated robots picking up objects, such as balls, rings, cubes and bean bags, and placing them in designated areas or platforms. Teams score points for the number of tasks performed in a timed period.

The competition is considered pressure-filled.

"You are tired at the end of the day," said Davis High senior Tyler Merrill. "It is just a mental tiredness thinking about so much, like constantly having to worry about things breaking down or talking to other teams to see what they are doing."

Junior Kyle Storey, who programs the robot for his team, said it is as intense as any sports competition.

"When you're driving the robot, you feel like it is an extension of yourself," he said. "And it's an ongoing battle between you and the other robot, both desperately trying to win."

Adviser Dane Leifson said the students are operating at their highest capacity all day long during competitions. But their efforts have paid off, having placed high enough in state competitions to allow them to compete in the world championships.

"This year is more of a challenge to be good, because it takes more effort, but we have really passionate kids who want to put that extra time into it," Leifson said.

One of the biggest challenges is keeping the robot motors from burning up, especially when they try to pick up more bean bags than the robot can actually lift. The quick solution is cutting power to the robot and letting it cool for a few seconds before moving their robot again.

The VEX Robotics World Championship competition is in its sixth year. Davis High has participated the last two years. Leifson said team members have learned a lot since the first year, when they were "newbies."

"We've learned good ways to build our robots, and we've become more successful this year because of the lessons we've learned."

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the event for him is seeing how excited the students get when designing their robots. Last year when they announced the game set-up for this year at the World Championships, his students were already showing him their plan ideas on the plane ride home.

Students began building the robots before school even let out last year. Each of the teams have spent the past year building their customized, hand-built robots using donations from the community and from classroom items they have on hand from the school's engineering courses.

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