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Robotics team qualifies for national competition

| Friday, April 20, 2012, 10:56 a.m.

With two victories under its belt, the Plum High School robotics team is eyeing a national competition.

"Still in Shock II," one of the team's robots, took first place in the seventh annual BotsIQ 2012 last week at Westmoreland County Community College. The robot outlasted the others at the competition. The team received a trophy and $1,000.

The students also scored a first-place finish last month in a competition at California University.

The contests lead up to the national competition next month in Indianapolis.

"These are the best students I have experienced for this type of event," said Martin Griffith, robotics team advisor. "They did a fantastic job."

Highlands High School was named the Grand Champion at last weekend's competition for best overall performance, which also includes documentation and team interviews. Griffith, who teaches computer-aided design and robotics, said Highlands received the designation because of its high marks in documentation.

"We need to work on our documentation," Griffith said. "I have to get the kids to complete it in a timely fashion and get them motivated."

The 14 students devoted their evenings and weekends during the school year to building "Blackout" and "Still in Shock II," the two robots they used in competitions.

Griffith said eight members of the team hope to go to the national competition May 5 and 6 in Indianapolis.

Approval from the Plum School Board is needed to proceed to the competition.

"They will be competing against other school districts throughout the country and college students," Griffith said. "It's a great experience."

The team plans to make some modifications to last year's bots and take them to the national competition, too.

"They were totally pumped up for the competition," Griffith said. "It is exciting."

The Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association spearheaded efforts to bring a national student robotics program to the Pittsburgh region.

The competition tests the ability of the students to build a robot that can outmaneuver and overpower the competitor, much like what is seen on the "Battlebots" television series.

The goal is to have a stronger, more durable robot that can withstand the impact of other robots, as well as act as an offensive weapon.

The Plum robotics team first competed in 2007. Over the past several years, it has captured first-place finishes in preliminary and regional competitions as well as top honors in the national competition in 2009.

The team last year took first place in the preliminary match and was knocked out in the regional competition.

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