Building a better bot – California Teachers Association


In April, thousands of budding young engineers gathered in Houston, Texas for the first annual International Robotics Championship.
Students from around the world, including a rookie team and a counselor from Half Moon Bay High School, competed and participated in workshops.
“The World Championship was a wild ride for four days,” said robotics club first adviser Sean Riordan, a member of the Cabrillo Unified Teachers Association (CUTA). “We were one of five rookie teams in the competition and finished 46th out of 75 in
our division.

Additionally, the team received the “Gracious Professionalism” award. All in all, it was a great performance for the “Pumpkin Bots” (a reference to the famous annual Half Moon Bay festival) and their robot, Zip Tie. In fact, the robotics club had only started last fall in a garage in Moss Beach and intended to compete in just one competition.

Riordan, CUTA co-chair and bargaining team member, teaches art, including metal carving. Teaching robotics isn’t a big step forward, he says. “There’s a lot of manual work, building things with craftsmanship and a sense of pride – that runs through my art classes and that applies to Zip Tie as well.”

Riordan learned with his students, calling the experience “exciting”. “It’s hard not to touch something as fun as a robot. As a teacher, I want to help as much as possible, but it’s important to step aside and let the students fully take over.

The Pumpkin Bots have stood out in their competitions because they are a small team that works exceptionally well together, Riordan said. Most teams have 20 to 40 students, while the Half Moon Bay team has less than 10. “Everyone gets their hands on the robot and that doesn’t happen when you have teams of 40. Both of our pilots were experienced in combat robots so we could engage. in the ‘hard game’ really effectively,” he added.

The competitions feature three challenges. First, students must make the robot move independently and throw a basket for 30 seconds. The next two seconds, the bot collects and fires basketball-sized tennis balls into two baskets eight feet and four feet high, respectively. The final 30 seconds involve the robots climbing a series of four-, six-, and eight-foot high monkey bars.

“In the end, we completed all three challenges,” Riordan said. “I’m so proud of these students, the way they blended together, the group sharing and what they achieved.”

Club plans for the summer include introducing new members to Zip Tie (two graduate members) and computer programming. Donations to help subsidize the costs of building and maintaining the robot, as well as transportation and accommodation during competitions, can be made to here.


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