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Bell Vernon, Yough students prepare for First Robotics competition

| Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, 9:02 p.m.
Ashley McGhee, 14, of Yough attaches bumpers to Eugene IV Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and will serve as assistant pit boss during competition at California University of Pa.
Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
Ashley McGhee, 14, of Yough attaches bumpers to Eugene IV Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center and will serve as assistant pit boss during competition at California University of Pa.
Nicholas Melvin, 17, of Belle Vernon attaches bumpers to the robot Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, at Central Westmoreland CAreer and Technology Center.
Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
Nicholas Melvin, 17, of Belle Vernon attaches bumpers to the robot Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, at Central Westmoreland CAreer and Technology Center.
David Konkol, 15, of Yough works on wiring on Eugene IV Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in the mechatronics department at Central Westmorleand Career and Technology Center.
Kelly Vernon | Trib Total Media
David Konkol, 15, of Yough works on wiring on Eugene IV Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014, in the mechatronics department at Central Westmorleand Career and Technology Center.

Belle Vernon Area and Yough high school students in the mechatronics program prepare for competition as they add finishing touches to their robot Eugene IV in the mechatronics shop at Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center before the Feb. 18 deadline.

Students will battle with 47 other teams from across the country and Canada during the regional First Robotics competition at the Convocation Center on the campus of California University of Pa. March 27-30. The new competition 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 from hear to year. This year's model 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.

Nicholas Melvin, 17, of Belle Vernon is one of the more experienced players on the team, 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,” said Melvin.

Southmoreland student Tyler Ledbetter, designed an elevator system for the robot's blocking system. 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.

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

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,” said Williams.

CWCTC sent 12 to 15 team members of the First Robotics team for a collaborating event with MARS (Mountaineer Area RoboticS) on Saturday to give the team the opportunity to see the full setup 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, they were unable to make the trip to White Hall at West Virginia University due to snow. Since they had to have Eugene IV sealed Feb. 18 until the competition in March, they had to take last year's model Eugene III for practice. Team members drove Eugene III, which is programmed the same as Eugene IV and orient the playing field usage.

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. Senior team member, Nick Sapp's mother noticed the team did not have a flag like other teams during the introduction of teams at last year's event, so she had one made for the team 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 at scoring too,” said Broker.

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

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