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Students show their mettle in robotics

Published April 12, 2007


Innovators among innovators, Nature Coast Technical High School's robotics team won the Xerox Creativity Award and placed 28th overall in this year's Peachtree Regional Robotics contest in Duluth, Ga.

The Nature Coast team also placed second in the Underwriters Lab safety judging.

Forty-eight international teams took part in the competition, called "Rack and Roll."

The only competing team from Hernando County, the students scrimped and saved, said faculty adviser Aaron Kincaide, and put on dozens of fundraisers to amass the small fortune it took to attend the competition.

First, Kincaide said, students have to find the wherewithal to purchase an entry kit. At a cost of $6,000, the kit contains every bolt, motor, control and sensor a team needs for the basic robot contestant.

Teams are limited to adding $3,000 extra to their project, the plans for which are contained in six three-ring binders stuffed full of schematics, instructions and information.

Said Kincaide: "You have to find another $1,000 or so to get your team there, feed them and put them up."

His team had no major sponsors, unlike many of the teams.

"Scott Barnwell, a State Farm insurance man, helps us a lot. His son is on the team, and Scott helps pay for rooms and travel," Kincaide said.

So the students work hard, for most of the school year, selling hot dogs at sporting events in Tampa or washing cars.

Kincaide is alongside them the whole way, according to parents, putting in hundreds of hours of personal time. He believes he's helping build a community of science and math heroes.

Meanwhile, the young techno-gurus learn about robotics, pneumatics and building machines. They do the work themselves, with a nudge and redirect, at times, from Kincaide.

Those who work the hardest and do the best job are selected to attend the competition.

Then the game is on. It's a three-on-three alliance game with two scoring components. Robots must throw hoops onto pegs, or prevent others from scoring, in part one. Then, they can score extra points for lifting other machines into the air with pneumatic lifters.

The games are sponsored by U.S. FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit scholarship organization that provides about $18-million in education money annually.

Kincaide and his team hope to spark interest at other Hernando schools. Their goal is to have every high school participate.

"This is Nature Coast's third season," he said. "Maybe we can end up as a county team representing all the high schools."

It'll take resources, he believes.

To identify future team members, Kincaide has organized a technical summer camp for middle-school students.

The homework assignment this term for Nature Coast's team is to make legislators aware of how important technology is - and maybe garner support for the robots.

Anyone interested in the program may call Kincaide at 797-7088, ext. 276.

Fast Facts:

Here's the team

Members of Nature Coast Technical High School's robotics team who attended the Peachtree Regional Robotics included:

Seniors: Chris Hilbert, Barrett Karish, Ryan Lowe, Tamarah Riggs, Emily Russell, John Sfraga, Kraig Tatman and Robert Wagner.

Juniors: Nathan Barnwell and James Raymond.

Sophomores: Nicholas Anatala, James Raymond, Natalie Bogicevic, Hank Fyock and Oliver Yahn.

Freshman: Aaron Holland.

[Last modified April 11, 2007, 23:56:51]

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