Hampton's robotics gurus excel in L.A.

| Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014, 9:01 p.m.

Hampton High School Robotics Club members are being recognized for their robotic engineering and design in a competition that attracts students from around the globe.

A team of six Hampton students attended the 2014 Global Conference of Educational Robotics from July 30 to Aug. 3 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and competed in the International Botball Tournament there.

The International Botball Tournament invites student teams to build and program autonomous robots to compete against other teams' robots in completing specific tasks, and Hampton High School's team won the Overall Judges Choice award for its robots' design and program.

“As their adviser, receiving the Overall Judges Choice award is the greatest award they could receive, even though our team did not place in the top five overall this year,” said Vince Kuzniewski, club adviser.

“Our team's students and robots were recognized by professional robotic engineers to be designed, engineered and programmed as the best of the best.”

Kuzniewski estimates the students put at least 1,000 man hours into designing the robots, programming them and testing the game strategies since January.

Students were given three potential tasks for their robots to complete, which included picking up coat hangers and hanging them on a rack above the playing surface, removing cubes from a shelf on the board and sorting them, and picking up and sorting colored cotton balls on the playing surface.

Completion of each task earned a team points. Teams were scored on their online documentation of their project, as well as a similar on-site presentation.

Hampton students built and programmed two robots.

One robot picked up and hung the coat hangers, and the other simultaneously picked up and sorted the colored cotton balls.

Brandon Duderstadt, a Botball team member who will be a senior, said he was proud of the advanced coding technique called threading that the team used on the robot that picked up and sorted the cotton balls at the same time.

“Threading allows you to do two sets of commands, running two programs, on one robot in parallel with each other,” Duderstadt said.

In addition to the Overall Judges Choice award, the Hampton team, which also included students Charlie Bares, Ian Waldschmidt, Ryan “Waldo” Waldschmidt, Philip Margaria and Everett Hinchberger, won a $1,000 sponsorship through NASA to attend next year's competition.

“We used some pretty advanced programming techniques and the mechanical design of robots was nice,” Duderstadt said about their robots.“(To me the sponsorship means) this was a team that has a lot of potential.”

The Hampton High School Robotics Club competed against 61 teams from across the globe, including China, Poland, Austria and Qatar, at the International Botball Tournament.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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