Students prepare for robotics competition

By the year 2018, it is predicted the United States will have 1.2 million STEM jobs unfilled, all because of the lack of qualified workers.

One high school here in Michiana is trying to change that statistic.

As Meteorologist David Harker found out, students are having fun along the way.

Summertime means kids are outdoors keeping cool at the pool and going to summer camp, but for some students, the learning is a yearlong commitment. Students at Plymouth High School have spent the summer getting the feel for next year's robotics competition.

This group of kids at Plymouth High School placed 9th in last season's state finals and made the trip to the Vex World Championship in California, but it hasn't always been this easy.

Jeremy Shidler, a student, says, “We had no idea when we first started... Not the slightest clue what we were doing. We just opened up all the boxes and said what's this.”

The Vex World Robotics Competition brings high school kids from around the world to compete head to head in various matches, and it's not until the competition is over that the next year's game is announced.

“At the end, they release it... They release the new one. They have a big revealing in the auditorium there. This is the game for this year. Last year was a lot different,” Shidler says.

This year’s game, Vex Skyrise, will test the skills of both the driver and builders. They will have to build a robot that can maneuver around objects and other robots quickly and also have the ability to score points by putting cubes in various scoring locations, such as the yellow Skyrise itself.

“There’s three other robots on the field at the same time, so you have to know your opponent and your teammates to know what their skills are and what you need to do,” Shidler says.

In the end, however you do it, scoring is key.

“It's the same basic principle. You'll have various objects... balls or cubes or whatever, and you have to score them wherever... at different heights and speeds and areas on the ground,” he says.

0:33:27 there isn't much like defense and stuff involved. With the last one there was a lot of defense because your scoring area... Both teams are going for the same scoring area. In this game, as you can see, these posts here are the scoring areas, so there are some on each side (:12)

Jeremey Shidler and his classmates are also working closely with the Project Lead the Way program, which is going into its fifth year at Plymouth High School.

This program is the top provider of STEM, or science, technology, engineering, and mathematics programming in the nation.

Rich Schieber has been helping students get acquainted to the process with hopes that they will progress without instruction.

Schieber says, “I will give them a task, and with very little input from me a lot of times, they'll be able to take off and just run with it. They'll do a lot of their own troubleshooting if a machine doesn't function correctly. They'll fix whatever error may be needed to be fixing and off they go again.”

Also, programs on their computers, such as CAD, can help them see their project through before it is complete.

“it takes a long time, but you can build the entire robot cad, and it will test it for you. You can drive it around in the program, it will tell you where it's going to fail,” Shidler says.

With the help of STEM programs, these students can score not only in the classroom and arena, but also in the game of life.

The Plymouth High School robotics team is looking to make its second straight trip to the world championship, which is slated for late April 2015.

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