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Central Westmoreland tech center students prepare for FIRST Robotics meet

| Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 9:01 p.m.
Tyler Ledbetter, 17, a senior at Southmoreland High School, tests the elevator system used for blocking that he helped construct in the mechatronics shop at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.
Kelly Vernon | The Independent-Observer
Tyler Ledbetter, 17, a senior at Southmoreland High School, tests the elevator system used for blocking that he helped construct in the mechatronics shop at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center.

Southmoreland High School senior Tyler Ledbetter was instrumental in the development of a robot for the Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center's entry into the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition March 27-30 at California University.

“There is no way we would've gotten it done without the whole team working together,” said Ledbetter.

Ledbetter designed an elevator system for the blocking system for Eugene IV, which had to be completed by Feb. 18. However, software issues can be perfected up to competition time.

Students will battle with 47 other teams from across the country and Canada at FIRST Robotics competition at California University's Convocation Center.

A new location will accommodate more teams and provides more convenient parking, said mechatronics instructor James Broker. The event was previously held at the Peterson Event Center in Pittsburgh.

Broker said the Convocation Center has a much larger area to accommodate the “pit” and practice areas so competitors will not feel cramped as in previous years. This is the fourth year the mechatronics department has participated in the event.

David Konkol, 15, of Yough said this year's robot model was more difficult as the specifications change each year. Eugene IV has the ability to block other team's shots and kicks a yoga ball. Last year's model threw frisbees. Braydn Szymkiewicz, 15, of Yough performed wiring and programming for Eugene IV. Other Yough teammates include Wade Williams, 17, and Ashley McGhee, 15.

In addition to the strong defense system, students engineered ball control, picking up the ball and shooting it in the highest value target. The robot has the ability to pick up and kick the large-sized yoga ball as well as block opponent's shots.

Nicholas Melvin, 17, of Belle Vernon is in his third year participating in the competition. His favorite robot was last year's model. He plans to continue in the mechatronics field after graduation.

“I think we have a good chance in competition, because we have the ability to pass to other teammates, kick and block,” Melvin said.

Most of the actual game strategies change with every match. There are three alliance teams going against another alliance of three teams that changes from match to match.

“This year's robot was more professionally built by our more experienced and knowledgeable team members,” Wade Williams said.

CWCTC sent 12-15 team members of the FIRST Robotics team for a collaborating event with MARS (Morgantown Area Robotics) Feb. 22 to give the team the opportunity to see the full set up of this year's competition “Aerial Assist” and get familiar with the playing field.

Broker said the MARS team selected CWCTC Team 3511 for the Pittsburgh Regional Championship matches last year with a finish in the semi-finals.

Broker's original plan was to take this year's fully functioning robot to get some practice driving in and work out any software/hardware issues.

However, the team was unable to make the trip to West Virginia University due to snow. Since Eugene IV had to be sealed until Feb. 18, the team had to take last year's model Eugene III for practice.

The team changed its name this year to CWCTC Road Dogs. The name was chosen by the team because team members provide their own transportation to and from CWCTC for after-school build sessions. The team found a picture of a dog that had a look of commitment and loyalty they felt fit the group's dedication to the competition.

The mother of team member Nick Sapp noticed the team did not have a flag like others during the introduction of teams at last year's event, so she had one made for future competitions.

“I think our team has the right chemistry, enthusiasm and experience to do well. Our robot's main attribute is to defend, but we have the capability to be effective scorers too,” said Broker.

Kelly Vernon is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-547-5722 or kvernon@tribweb.com.

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