Lansdowne team makes robotics competition debut

Lansdowne High School was one of 110 schools that took part in the Battle by the Bay robotics competition Nov. 16 and 17 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.

In addition to more than a dozen schools from Baltimore County, schools from across Maryland, as well as Delaware, Virginia and Pennsylvania took part in the event.

This was Lansdowne's first appearance in the qualifying event for national and international competition sponsored by VEX Robotics.

The competitions offer middle school, high school and college students a way to learn about science, technology, engineering and math while practicing teamwork, leadership and problem solving.

Lansdowne was represented by the team of juniors Guadalupe Rivas and Demetrick McDonald, sophomore Shawn Robinson and freshman Robert Soucy.

Jim Melia, a technology education teacher at the school, served as the team adviser.

The students trained for a year as a club to learn the ins and outs of building and programming robots using VEX parts and the Robot C programming language to control the machine they build, according to an email fro Melia.

During the competition, students use their robot to play a game using bean bags.

Leading up to competition, the Lansdowne robot underwent several design changes as the students went through the problem solving process.

That process lasted up to the competition. Three days before the competition, the Lansdowne robot's arm was too heavy for it to raise, according to Melia. Re-gearing the motors and using rubber bands to create lift solved the problem, but the design made it too difficult to scoop up the bean bags and dump them into the scoring goal.

Two hours before the competition, the team decided to use a claw instead of a shovel.

With the help of students from Dulaney High School, the team was able to rebuild and reprogram the robot in time to compete with the claw proving a much more efficient design.

Making adjustments between games, modifying and repairing the robot and developing game strategy as they went was exactly what the experience was designed to teach, Melia said in his email.

Lansdowne finished its first competition with a ranking of 28 out of 39 teams.

The team is now planning to take part in Dec. 8 competition at Hereford Middle School, the Jan. 12 Bionic Bayhawks Invitational at Chesapeake High and the county school system's STEM Tournament Feb. 23.

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