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Robotics teams to compete

Two area high schools will compete Saturday at the 2009 UAB Blazer BEST robotics competition.

For six weeks, engineering students at Isabella and Billingsley schools have built robots by hand to perform specific functions. Saturday, a team from each school will pit their creation against those of 25 other schools from around the state.

Each school had an identical kit of materials to work with, but no blueprints — only their ingenuity and teamwork.

“It was difficult to build,” said Isabella instructor Jay LeCroy. “It was a difficult, time consuming process to take wood, PVC pipe, aluminum and sheet metal and turn it into a machine with no instructions.”

The Isabella robotics team, Up the Creek Engineering, are rookies in the competition. But perhaps a better term is “pioneers,” because they are the first from Chilton County to participate.

Because the robot had to be built from scratch, the project involved some trial and error. They even had to make their own wheels.

The “work force” consisted of more than 50 students, with a core group of about a dozen seniors. The team had to function like a real-world company to build, promote and market its product.

Saturday, about 16 students will operate the robot in competition mode. The object will be to retrieve cans, globes, racquet balls and tennis balls and create a series of equations that lead to the production of isooctane.

The items retrieved by the robot will represent different reactants in the equations.

“I think we’re going to do pretty well for the first time being in it,” said Isabella senior Marlee Hayes. “It gives you more responsibility than you’re used to having in a normal school setting.”

“It shows you how much goes into building something,” added Travis Hallmark.

Fellow senior Keela Ray had to write a research paper on the project. The team will also present an oral presentation Saturday morning.

“It has been stressful for sales and marketing trying to pull everything together, but we’re excited,” she said.

The action begins Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in Bartow Arena. And, according to LeCroy, it’s the first of many for Isabella students, who are being introduced to the engineering world.

“It’s important. The county needs engineers,” he said.