Robotics kicks off at Isabella

Published 7:24 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Everybody is talking about football season, but another competitive season has begun that many are unaware of — robotics.

The Mustang Engineering team at Isabella High School has just started its second year, and about 30 students attended the BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) Kickoff Day at UAB’s Bartow Arena last week to learn their objectives for this year’s project.

The team has about 40 days to design a robot to perform specific tasks accurately and efficiently.

Sheldon Price watches over the engineer design team as they attempt to design the robot.

“This is an academic program that builds confidence and teaches real world experience,” said Isabella science instructor Jay LeCroy.

Students who signed up for the program had to sign a contract and be “hired” by senior students who were named executive officers. In a sense, participating in the program will have the feel of working for a company. Those who do not fulfill the agreement of their contract, LeCroy explained, will get “fired.”

“Seniors have to manage their people and manage their time. They’re learning those skills,” he said. “They have to produce a product, and they have to meet deadlines and goals.”

The project is called “Total Recall” and relates to marketing. The team must design a robot that will move products on an assembly line. For Isabella’s robot, the product will most likely be peaches — this will give the project a direct tie to Chilton County.

“Right now, we’re in the brainstorming phase,” LeCroy said.

All schools receive an identical set of instructions and raw materials. The students must come up with a design from scratch. This will be more challenging this year because Isabella’s science labs are currently being renovated.

The school has subcontracted with LeCroy Career/Technical Center to manufacture the robot from the team’s design. LeCroy thanked the center’s director, Tommy Glasscock, for his assistance.
The students are being mentored by Rick Cofer of Alabama Power and retired engineer Sheldon Price. Also, Bryan Rosenstiel of Hoover High School has shared advice.

Although the program has received funding through grants, LeCroy pointed out that there is currently no budget set aside for engineering programs.

“We’re looking for corporate sponsors,” he said.