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February 19, 2013

The 'Bots are Back

Robotics demonstration new kind of team

CORBIN — By Jeff Noble

Staff Writer

The sight of basketballs sailing in the air inside Corbin High School’s Gilliam Gymnasium is nothing unusual — unless the shot’s made by a robot.

Couple that with another robot throwing Frisbees across the gym floor and you have the two stars of a demonstration for Corbin High students held at the gym Monday morning.

Many of the students at the event gave the two robots five stars. The robots were designed and built by students at Lynn Camp High School, which has a robotics team that competes in events across Kentucky and the region.

The school’s technology instructor, Arthur Canada, heard that Corbin wanted to start a robotics team of its own. Thinking an exhibition would not only help other schools start their own band of ‘bots, he also thought having students see the event live would also raise their awareness of robotics, and in the study of science, technology and engineering.

Canada thought it was a grand idea. Patty Crawford, principal of the Corbin Area Technology Center (CATC), thought so, too.

“Schools are changing. We’re teaching more ‘hands-on’ classes, and as a result, it gives students a hands-on approach in real world applications. It  gets kids excited. It gets them involved in being able to take what they’ve just learned. If they study about it and they do it, it sticks,” said Crawford, an advocate of technology learning and a former assistant of Canada’s at Lynn Camp High.

“Arthur’s the perfect instructor for this program. He’s embraced technology and has challenged his kids in what may be boring math and make it into a fun game with the robots. It’s concrete, they can get the feel of it, take an iPad, learn it and do it,” she added.

After the demonstration, both robots got the going-over by dozens of students who came to see them, and see what made the ‘bots tick.

“I liked the basketball machine because it actually shoots, and the Frisbee shoots from long distances. Just by looking at the machines, I can look at the designs and I talked to the programmer,” said Michael Laun, an 8th Grader at Corbin Middle School.

His friend and classmate at Corbin Middle, Sahil Patel, agreed. “I like to see how things work. Technology changes and it’s changing constantly and getting faster and better, every day, After seeing the basketball robot this morning, I think we’ll have robotic basketball players eventually in the future.”

Both Patel and Laun also attend classes at CATC, and are taking Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes at Corbin Middle. Crawford noted the robotics demonstration was also a perfect lead in for the tech center to promote its engineering program. PLTW is a leading provider of rigorous and what their website calls “innovative Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education curricular programs nationwide in middle schools and high schools.

The two students definitely feel the need to be a part of the latest round of “Brain Games,” or as one speaker at a conference on STEM education called it, “Sports for the Mind.”

“I’ll be a freshman next year, and what I’ll design depends on the problem I have to solve,” added Laun.

Ditto for Patel. “I want to make a virtual 3D model, where you can put a helmet on and actually be in the game.”

Currently, Canada’s team at Lynn Camp High has 12 members. Many of them came along with him for the Corbin demonstration. And Canada hopes the spirit of cooperation he and his students got with Corbin will click with other schools in the region.

“It was great for our kids, because it’s more than showing off. It lets them say, ‘I can show this to others.’ And the Corbin kids looked at this and they can see all this and say to themselves, ‘I can do this.’”

The team’s got some busy times ahead this week. After Monday’s demonstration at Corbin high, Lynn Camp’s “Wildcat Wildbots” headed to Barbourville for an afternoon demo at Knox Central High School. Today (Tuesday) they’ll take their robotics demonstration to Whitley County High, and will appear at the district basketball tournament in the days ahead. With another trip to the Smoky Mountain Regionals in Knoxville coming up in March and a later trip to Terre Haute, Ind., on tap for later this year, Canada’s said sponsorships for the team is needed.

“We’re on a NASA sponsorship right now, and we have several local sponsorships as well. We’d like to continue them, as well as take on some new ones. If you’re interested in sponsoring the Wildcat Wildbots, contact Canada at the school at (606) 528-5429.

Canada teaches engineering and design at Lynn Camp High. When he looks at his team, or at helping other schools boot up their interest in a robotics program, Canada says there’s a common theme that brings the ‘bots together.

“The theme of robotics is more than building robots. It’s working together as a team. I find somebody who shows them how to do it, or I find a place where the kids can do it. I see a bunch of kids who are eager to expand their imagination and take it to the next level. We teach people to work together, and it’s international in scope and it involves working with everybody. Robotics is truly global in nature. The kids know it. And they have fun with it, too.”

While watching the robot make a basketball swish through the net, Crawford turned to a fellow teacher and declared, “I’d’ love to be in school again, wouldn’t you?”

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