ShareThis Page

Western Pa. students prepare for robotics competitions

| Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 3:41 a.m.
Clairton City School District has been committed to its robotics program for several years and will continue competition with the upcoming BotsIQ event. Two years ago, then-junior Amanda Gillespie, then-senior Charles Shrout, and then-sophomore Eliza Sopko were among those who participated. Eliza, now a senior,  still is with the program.
Cindy Shegan Keeley | Daily News
Clairton City School District has been committed to its robotics program for several years and will continue competition with the upcoming BotsIQ event. Two years ago, then-junior Amanda Gillespie, then-senior Charles Shrout, and then-sophomore Eliza Sopko were among those who participated. Eliza, now a senior, still is with the program.

Area high school students will take robots this weekend to Troy, N.Y., and Youngwood.

While McKeesport Area students pack for Troy and the first of two FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) regional tests, others are headed for competition at Westmoreland County Community College.

Preliminary rounds are scheduled at the community college for the ninth annual Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ Competition on Friday and Saturday.

BotsIQ organizers said a record-breaking 72 teams are being sent with 800 participants from 51 schools.

It is a gladiator-style competition that draws on students' knowledge of math, science, engineering and even public speaking.

Organizers said it has evolved since 2005 into a manufacturing workforce development program that has drawn more than 3,000 high school students toward jobs in manufacturing.

“Despite advances in technology, a career in manufacturing can't seem to shake the stereotype of layoffs and miserable working conditions,” Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ executive director Bill Padnos said. “BotsIQ demonstrates to high school students that today's manufacturing (is) techy and edgy, challenging and rewarding.”

And, he added, an in-demand career in an era of employment instability.

Local BotsIQ participants come from Clairton, Norwin, Serra Catholic, Steel Valley, West Mifflin Area, Baldwin, Propel Braddock Hills, Woodland Hills and Yough high schools, as well as Forbes Road Career and Technology Center and the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf.

Clairton's Team Mega Nuke and Team Bazinga made it last year to the National BotsIQ Championships in Indianapolis, where Mega Nuke lost in the quarterfinals to eventual national champion North High School of St. Paul, Minn.

“We all met a lot of people, and they had a great learning experience,” Clairton City School District spokeswoman Alexis Trubiani said.

Survivors of this weekend's Youngwood event will move on to the BotsIQ finals on April 25 and 26 at California University of Pennsylvania.

Schools with multiple teams include West Mifflin Area, Baldwin and Woodland Hills (three each) and Yough (five).

There are businesses that back the school efforts.

“They offer a lot of support, ranging from financial, coaching (and) materials (to) worksite use of equipment and so forth,” BotsIQ spokeswoman Diane Wuycheck said.

Some business sponsors include Ace Wire Spring and Form Co. Inc. and Vangura Tool Inc. (both of Clairton), Kurt J. Lesker and Kennywood Park (both of West Mifflin Area), Automated Manufacturing (Baldwin), Hammill Manufacturing (Woodland Hills) and Painter Tools (Yough).

Cal U's convocation center will be a hotbed of robotic activity this spring.

In addition to BotsIQ, the Mon Valley university is new host for the Greater Pittsburgh FIRST Regional.

It moved from the Petersen Events Center at the University of Pittsburgh to Cal U where 48 teams will gather from March 27-29.

Ontario, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and West Virginia schools will join 32 from Pennsylvania, including McKeesport Area High School's Team 1708, Gateway High School's Team 2656 and Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center's Team 3511.

For Team 1708 it is the second FIRST competition this month after the trip this weekend to Troy and the New York Tech Valley Regional. It is the only Pennsylvania school among 38 signed up there.

McKeesport supporters include Cygnus Manufacturing Co., the Heinz Endowments, Wal-Mart, ChemImage, The Consortium for Public Education's The Future is Mine program and 21st Century Community Learning and Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education grants.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.