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December 12, 2017

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Student robotics teams hope to go to world championships

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Mick Akers

Jason Elliott (holding the control) and Greenspun Junior High Schoo teammates demonstrate robotics recently in Henderson. The team is hoping to go to the VEX Robotics Competition world championships this month in Louisville, Ky.

Teamwork is what got them this far; teamwork is what will get them to the next level.

Robotics teams at Basic High School, Greenspun Junior High School and Nate Mack Elementary won state titles in their grade levels last month, and now they are raising money to go a world championship tournament this month.

The teams are entirely self-funded, getting no money from the schools or the Clark County School District for their clubs. The teams demonstrated their robots at a Henderson Chamber of Commerce mixer last week, in hopes of raising enough funds to make the trip to Louisville, Ky., for the VEX Robotics Competition world championships.

“We’re trying to raise money to make it out to the international competition. It’s kind of pricey for our little school, so we’re hoping to get there,” Basic High School senior Carter Estes said. “It’s all through us fundraising — the school doesn’t support us, and we have expensive trips to go on.”

Estes said that Basic’s team secured a sponsorship from Tronox, a chemical manufacturer in Henderson that donates $5,000 per year. Despite budget cuts at Tronox this year, plant manager Rick Stater ensured the students received their donations.

“Mr. Stater donated out his own pocket this year … which we thought was really cool,” Estes said.

The members of the Greenspun robotics crew have taken it upon themselves to earn money to fund their team.

“We are selling candy and pins at our school, and we’ve done pretty well with that,” said Jason Elliott, an eighth-grader at Greenspun.

In addition to the robotics competition, the middle school and elementary students were also required to participate in an IQ competition in which they come up with a group project.

The Greenspun robotics team’s project was to determine what works better for hard-of-hearing students — cochlear ear implants or hearing aids? Hearing aids make sounds louder, while cochlear implants do the work of damaged parts of the inner ear to provide sound signals to the brain.

“We elaborated in that by doing research, testing a lot of the kids at our school and now we’re going to one of the facilities for the hard-of hearing in town and we’re going to test them out,” Elliott said.

The robots vary in size, but are about 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide on average, and are square or triangular in shape. The robots are made up of various moving parts that allow the teams to maneuver them, pick up objects and place them into slots to score points in the competition.

At the beginning of each match the robot has to drive itself for 15 seconds, then for a minute and 45 seconds the teams take control of their bots and rack up as many points as possible.

With all the work the kids put into their robots, they are looking forward to traveling for the championships, but are concerned with the competition.

“I’m very excited, but I’m also very nervous,” Elliott said. “I know that there will be a lot more better teams than at the state competition, as only two teams from each state (in each division) will be there. But I think it will be a great experience.”

This is the first year that students at Nate Mack Elementary have had a robotics club and the students learned as they went.

“We haven’t had a team in the past, so they figured it out as they went along, which was very exciting,” said Nancy Heavey, principal of Nate Mack Elementary. “Nobody had any idea that they’d be able to succeed so quickly.”

Miranda Miller, a member of Nate Mack’s club, is ready to represent their school at the world championships and is eager meet other students from around the world.

“We’re going to compete with people in China and other countries. They’ll be speaking different languages, so it will be cool,” Miller said. “It means a lot, because we’re actually representing our school.”

The part Nate Mack robotics club member Ella Drakulich is worried about most is not the competition itself, but the trek across the country.

“This will be the farthest I’ve ever been from Nevada,” Drakulich said. “I’m a little nervous for the trip, but very excited to go with my team.”

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