Niles High School gets invaded by robots

By: Frank Waugh; Rich Molina Email
By: Frank Waugh; Rich Molina Email

The Niles High School team was in action Friday, along with more than 30 teams from the region.

The teams all had six weeks to design, build, and test a robot. The robots are made to complete and finish different obstacles.

The students say it was hard work but well worth the effort.

Tom Pawlicki of Team 503 said, "We've been spending constant, constant hours. It's been almost like a job, but a job that I very much enjoy."

Team Fallout will be back in action Saturday morning. If you would like to watch the competition, it begins at 9:30 a.m. at Niles High School.

Admission is free and you can find more information on the team's website by clicking here. You can also find more information at U.S. First's website by clicking here.

NewsCenter 16's meteorologist Frank Waugh talked with Team Fallout about what their Robotics Club is about and what it means to them.

This weekend thousands of screaming fans are expected to descend on the Niles High School gym but they won't be watching basketball. Instead they will be watching students from 35 Michigan high schools compete in the U.S. First Robotics Competition.

The team from Niles High School is made up of all types of students with all types of talent.

"We had a robotics club last year, but this is the first year we have been team 3509, Team Fallout. So we are rookies,” said team president Naomi Stevenson. "To the school it is more of a club but to us we are an actual team."

"Our team is broken up into groups,” Stevenson said. “There is a finance team, they go around and collect sponsorships for us. We have a design team and that is actually what I am on. We did the logo, the shirts, the buttons, pretty much anything you see advertising us, is what we did. We have a software team, they pretty much made the robot, and then we have hardware that built it."

With all of the small groups with in the team, teacher Wayne Borr says his role is a little different than your typical coach.

"I am much like the CEO of a company, we have 19 employees," Borr said.

This diverse team approach has attracted many students who had no idea what they were getting into.

"I didn't know too much about robots actually so I figured I might as well learn something,” said team vice president Gavin Croom.

Gavin soon learned his talents could be used in the board room, drumming up financial support even during tough economic times.

"We have different levels of sponsorships. With each level higher we show off their logo for their company more often,” Croom said. “On our top level our gold sponsorship is $1,000 and we happened to get a thousand dollars from Delta Machinery."

Funding from local companies and support from the U.S. First program helped build their six wheeled, 90-pound monster that screams across the floor and turns on a dime, thanks to the skilled hands of Ian Ireland.

“There is kind of like an invisible barrier on the joy stick, when you just don't cross that barrier, it can definitely move,” Ireland said.

Ian is also responsible for programming the machine; and communication between the builders and programmers is a must.

"Once we get everything wired to where it is supposed to be, they tell me what they want it to do and then I can go to any laptop that we have that has the software on it and I can go through and make it either go up or down or for how long or for how much, how fast,” Ireland said.

The ultimate goal is to use the robot to put a tube on a grid, but the students are learning a lot more than robotics.

"It really truly isn't about the robot, it is a vehicle to make the other stuff happen,” Borr said.

Some of the most memorable moments for this proud coach have actually happened away from the competition field.

"We were at a business presentation with Express One in Buchanan and the CEO Jeff Curry asked one of the kids, the young man, what is this team? Tell me about it. His answer was, it is basically the super club of Niles High School because there is something for everyone, and that was magic for me, I knew I had something good then,” Borr said.

While this isn't your typical sport or your everyday team the students don't seem to care.

"This is my new baseball team so to speak,” Ireland said. “To me this is just as important as any other sports event. All the other kids are getting real excited or real amped up to go to the basketball game tonight, but for me I am going to watch robots."

"Niles High School has no idea what they are in for, absolutely none,” Borr said. “This event is going to shake this place up. They have no idea."

The Niles High School team will compete Friday and Saturday. If you would like to watch the competition it begins at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Admission is free.

You can find more information about the Team Fallout on the Big Red Bar.

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