JCC Hosts Area Schools In Second Annual Robotics Competition

Students from 12 schools had an opportunity to put their engineering skills to the test in the second annual Robotics Competition at Jamestown Community College.

On Friday, contestants met in the JCC gymnasium with a variety of robots, which were built and programmed by the students for the competition. The event featured an “Angry Birds” theme, in which the robots had to navigate through an obstacle course and perform specific functions.

The competition is the brainchild of Jill Johnson, engineering professor at JCC, who said that the competition was conceived as a means of rebuilding the college’s engineering program.

“There’s a lot of people in this area that didn’t even know that JCC has an engineering science program,” she said. “So we wanted to let these kids know that this is fun, and that JCC has a program and they should consider it. They should consider engineering long-term as a goal, if they’re into this kind of thing, but we also have programs here at JCC where they can come and get started.”

She added: “Obviously, (the students) really enjoy themselves, and they come up with really creative designs.”

The obstacle course featured green balloons, representing the pigs from the Angry Birds game, a combination of blue and red plastic balls and a stack of plastic cups. The object was to have students navigate their robots through the “forest” of approximately 10 randomly placed pigs without touching one, pick up a red ball and launch it at the cups to knock them down. The competition was scored based on performance, and teams could earn more points by shooting the ball at the cups from a further distance.

“Originally, the goal was to go through the entire course without any penalties. So they get penalized if they hit a pig, pick up a blue ball instead of a red ball, or miss the cups. There’s a maximum score of 110 points, and the goal was to maximize the score that they get,” said Johnson.

In order to construct their robots, schools were given robot kits during the fall semester by JCC. The kits included Legos; light, heat, proximity and touch sensors; and a “brain,” a small computer from which the robots could be programmed.

Scott Van Stee, robotic engineering teacher at Jamestown High School’s tech academy, said that his students have been preparing for the competition for the past two months.

“They had a great time (building the robots), and a lot of these kids are up for these challenges,” he said. “(JCC) gave us just enough information that we had to think a lot about how to get through this course; which is the fun part, because they give us a goal and we have to figure out how to get to that goal.”

The competition also featured 15 judges from local businesses such as Blackstone, Jamestown Board of Public Utilities and Cummins’ Jamestown Engine Plant. Each judge was selected for their background in engineering and technology.

In addition to Jamestown, other school districts that were represented at the competition included: Randolph, Pine Valley, Warren County Career Center, Falconer, Clymer, BOCES’ LoGuidice Educational Center, Maple Grove, Fredonia, Westfield, Sherman and Brocton.