Getting robot ready

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Team grows in numbers, enthusiasm

By Cindy Simpson

The Roane County High School robotics team is gearing up for its second season of robotics competition.


It starts with the FIRST robotics Smoky Mountains regional competition. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. The event is open to the public.

“It is March 27 through 29 in Knoxville,” said advisor Cindy Holmes.

The first day involves inspections and tweaking. The next day involves a round robin of competition.

The schools are randomly divided by computer into teams for the first phase of competition.

“You have three robots against three robots, and you’ll play all day long from 8 or 9 (in the morning) to 4 or 5 that night. On Saturday, they play round robin in the morning, and then at lunch time the top eight teams get to pick an alliance. They pick two other teams to play with them, and then they have finals in the afternoon,” Holmes said.

This year the robots are expected to be able to handle a ball, getting points for passing to team robots and shooting it into one of two goals.

“It has to either shoot it in a 6-feet-tall goal or a goal on the ground,” said project manager Emma Tobins.

It takes a significant time commitment from the students to be on the robotics team. It meets Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and all day on Saturdays.

“You learn a lot of different things. It is an extracurricular activity that directly helps you in school and for college,” Tobin said.

Tobin is working on the software side, and last week she was working with a code that they wrote for a new type of drive system for the robot,” said Andrew Whittenbarger, a senior in the business division of the team. “It takes a lot of time, but I think it is really rewarding.”

Last year the Roane County High School team was able to move from the regional competition to the national competition in St. Louis.

They hope they can do so again.

The robot competition isn’t cheap. It cost at least $5,000 to get the basic robot kit and compete in the regional competition.

Thanks to donations and the mentorship of many professionals, some of those costs have been helped with.

The team is in the midst of continuing fundraising now to raise the cost of participation.

Those that donated include TVA, $3,000; ORNL, $2,000; REU, $1,000; UCOR, $1,000; and LEISDOS, $3,500.

Most students on the team are from Roane County High School, but other schools and a homeschool student are also involved.

Those participating include Teresa Armstrong, Brianna Casaus, Kinzee Clark, Charlie Coen, Jon Dailey, Christopher Dinkins, Jake Estes, Courtney Fallon, Justin Finks, Jacob Galyon, Hailey Hall, Monica Hampton, Joey Hargis, Jonathon Higgins, Luke Huddleston, Trey Key, Gabe Martin, Seth Martrain, Hunter McClure, Joey Michaud, Jonathan Nelson, Conner Nelson, Nathan Parkison, Jenny Parrish, Jacob Perry, Corey Preston, Nick Reyes, Adam Roberts, Caleb Roberts, Hope Smith, Josh Spurling, Corey Stafford, Sam Starkey, Michael Stooksbury, Cothron Theiss, Devan Tobey, Emma Tobin, Katie Wattenbarger, Andrew Whittenbarger, Josh Workman and Jared Webb.

Mentors include Gary Alley, Ron Dinkins, Dianne Ezell, Cara Hannel, Dave Hannel, Cecil Jenkins, Tonya Jones, Grant Ladd, Roberto Lenarduzzi, Ed Michaud, Alli Nelson, Sherry Nelson, Alex Roschli, John Stooksbury, Tim Theiss, Benet Theiss, Ken Tobin, Cathy Tobin, Mike Walker and teacher Jason Young.