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The City Journals

Hillcrest Robotics Team Wins Award For Creativity

May 05, 2016 01:49PM ● By Julie Slama

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Midvale - Using spare parts, some bent and some that didn’t line up, Hillcrest High grabbed the “Creativity Award” at a recent robotics regional competition. About 45 schools participated in the regional contest.

The Creativity Award was given to the school for a “robot design that was developed outside the box,” Hillcrest coach Clief Castleton said. 

They received it at9 the FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — robotic competition. In January, students learned the contest mission, which this year was called “Stronghold,” a medieval theme. Hillcrest students spent about two months of late nights and Saturdays gearing for the March 17-19 competition. 

Through the FIRST robotics competition, teams of students build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. In this year’s competition, two alliances are on a quest to breach their opponents’ fortifications, weaken their tower with boulders and capture the opposing tower. Robots score points by breaching opponents’ defenses and scoring boulders through goals in the opposing tower. 

Students have a chance to learn from professional engineer consultants, use robotic software and hardware and have a chance to qualify for college scholarships. Area businesses sponsor the Hillcrest’s 57-member team, of which 24 took part in the regional contest. 

While the team trophy remains on display in the school robotics lab, the team gave the plaque it received to its design team lead, senior Dale Schlachter, who helped develop the creative approach to this year’s robot, Castleton said.

“We ended up using bits and pieces from all three robots we’ve had in the past, with several pieces bent, parts not lining up, having it drive horizontally and using surgical tubing to pull in the ball. The team solved problems in creative ways,” he said.

Castleton said that his team’s robot, nicknamed “Harv-e” after the school mascot Harvey the Husky, was the only robot to able to do all the challenges that involved 12 obstacles on the field. 

The team advanced to the semi-finals when “all of a sudden, our robot stopped, but the part kept going.”

However, the robot is just part of the competition that evaluates character, professionalism, community service, business plan, community involvement and cooperation.

In the past, the team has received the Entrepreneur Award for its sustainable business plan and the Rookie All-Star award which allowed the team to advance to compete at the world championships. Castleton also has received the Outstanding Volunteer Award.

Castleton is quick to point out that without the support of many professionals and businesses, the students would lack mentors and support.

“The base parts and registration for regionals alone is $5,000. We use about $1,200 in parts and could use up to $4,000, so it’s beyond selling candy-bars and wrapping paper. We need the expertise of those in the industry and we appreciate the support of our community,” he said.

Joining Castleton is math teacher Matt Snyder, who is the team’s assistant coach. Mentors include Dan Confer, of Comcast, and Kevin Merritt, of Ultradent Dental.

This was freshman Saey Kamtekar’s first year competing.

“I had competed in sixth grade in FIRST Lego League robotics and was curious, but thought it would be a whole much of nerds so I didn’t expect much when I first walked in the door,” she said. “I realized this was way cooler and bigger than Lego League. I’ve made some of my best friends and learned and how to build and design like an engineer. I was showed the drill press and at first, it was intimidating. Now I just put on the safety glasses and know I can build something from scratch.”

Saey said she has learned what a chassis is and what are pneumatic tires.

“I’d Google at lunch and come back and realize I could be part of this. I’ve learned that I can take things apart and see how they work. From there, I’ve learned how to assemble new parts,” she said.

Sophomore Ben Pratt is a programmer on the robotics team.

“We talked with our design team to learn what they wanted and told them what we could do and got our creative juices going,” said Ben, who wants a career in the robotics field. “We created it together. It’s what we’ll be doing in the real world.”