By Nathan Herring (USACE)February 25, 2013
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District and the Tulsa Society of American Military Engineer, or SAME recognized two Tulsa area robotics teams during their January meeting.
During the meeting, each team spoke about their program and demonstrated their robot. Both had received donations in 2012 from SAME to help fund their robotics projects and competitions. Each team built their robot, programmed it, and used remote controls to control the robot while performing certain tasks, which vary based on which competition circuit they were in.
The 2012 SAME Engineering the Future Grant was awarded to Owasso High School Robotics. The grant provides financial assistance to any program or projects composed of students in middle or high school in Eastern Oklahoma that advances Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, more commonly known as STEM. The Owasso program has such a high level of interest among students that two separate teams represent the school, the Rambotics and Gnomeland Security.
They compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge, a sports-based, friendly competition where opposing teams compete to win points. The competition consists of robots grabbing rings and placing them on pegs of varying heights. The objective is to gain the most points based on peg designation, right type, programming and driver controlled periods, and the robot's abilities. The competition is sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), an organization dedicated to inspiring young people to be science and technology leaders. The Owasso program has qualified for the regional competition to be held in March.
The Fechinistas, an independent Tulsa area team of eight middle school girls, received donations from SAME in 2012 because of their outstanding performance at FIRST LEGO league competitions. The team received the Champion's award at the local qualifying competition held in Tulsa. This qualified the team to compete at the regional level and they ended up receiving third place for strategy and innovation at the state competition held in Edmond, Okla. in December.
The FIRST LEGO® league is a partnership between FIRST and Danish toy company LEGO®. Competing teams must build a robot from LEGO® pieces and NXT controller, motors, and sensors. They must then program the robot to interact with other competitors and the competition field.
The Fechinistas are a unique team because of their independent status. Three of the girls attend private school and five are homeschooled. The team meets every Friday afternoon from the end of August through the middle of November. Each week they refine their mechanical design. In doing so, the team is challenged to develop innovative solutions using math and scientific research.
The Tulsa District works very closely with SAME to promote STEM initiatives to local schools. Two Tulsa District employees formally presented the Future Grant to the Owasso Robotics team. While there, they talked to the students about the engineering profession and their experiences working for the Tulsa District. In addition, two engineers from the Dam Safety Production Center and an intern from the Tulsa Resident Office helped judge group presentations and the Design and Programming component of the Tulsa FIRST LEGO® League competition in November. In addition, they helped coordinate student teams during head-to-head competition and they assisted the event photographer.
Dan Morales, one of the engineers participating the November event, attended the SAME meeting.
"The meeting was a way to formally acknowledge those exceptional students and to help promote volunteering by the SAME Tulsa Post at the next robotics competition," he said. "Hopefully next year we can get even more volunteers."