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It’s a robot.
But not the variety adults are acquainted with, like “The Jetsons” maid Rosie, R2D2 from “Star Wars” or the “Lost in Space” robot that shared information with the Robinson family with its familiar, “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!”
“We’re comfortable with those models which resemble the human form,” said Cynthia Holmes. “They look like us, act like us, and some speak like us.”
That’s not the type of robot that Holmes’ students are designing in the FIRST Robotics Club at Roane County High School in Kingston.
Their robot is a work horse that many industries are utilizing for a variety of jobs.
The idea of a robotics club began when Ken Tobin and Gary Alley brought FIRST Robotics to Holmes’ attention.
“They said if I would get it going, they would help,” she recalled. “We all agreed that it would be a great addition to our school.”
Holmes shared the idea with students, who wanted to learn more, and the robotics program was born.
A sign went up in the hallway for an initial meeting, and the classroom was filled with curious students.
“Robotics?” the refrain went. “Sounds fun!”
FIRST Robotics is a program that is designed to inspire young people to study science and engineering in college in cooperation with usfirst.org.
“It is a sport of the mind,” Holmes explained. “The robot challenge is designed like a game. The game is revealed on the first Saturday in January, and the teams have six weeks to design and build their robots. Then the robot teams compete at various competitions all over the United States.”
The Roane County High team, the Full Metal Jackets, will compete in the Smoky Mountains Regional competition March 28-30 in Knoxville.
The Full Metal Jackets includes 43 students — 42 from Roane County High and one from nearby Midway High School.
And the robot? His name is Robo-Jacket, which, like the team, plays on the school’s yellow jacket mascot.
Robo-Jacket is currently in training. He is being taught to launch discs into goals at different heights to score points.
At the end of the competition, he will be climbing a three-level pyramid.
Holmes enjoys sharing information about the club and the students’ hard work.
“It is very expensive to build a large, 120-pound robot,” she said. “The entry fee and basic kit is $6,500. More is needed to make the robot perform tasks at the competition. Participation would be impossible without sponsors.”
TVA has donated $5,000 to the team. Oak Ridge National Laboratory added another $3,000, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers contributed $1,000.
Various other area sponsors have contributed to the group, Holmes said.
Mentors helping are Tobin, Alley, Diane Bull and Tim Theiss from ORNL; Ed Michaud from South College; Ronnie McKamey, system engineer for TVA; Cecil Jenkins of Jenkins Fabrication and Welding.
Roane County High educators Sheila Calloway and Suzanne Miller also help with the club.
“Anyone who would be willing to help sponsor our team can contact me at RCHS,” Holmes said. “Any donation of tools, supplies, expertise and funding would be appreciated.”
She added, “The Smoky Mountains Regional competition is getting close, and you can bet the Full Metal Jackets and Robo-Jacket of RCHS are preparing for the challenge.