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ORNL supports local teams in FIRST Robotics Competition

 

Students from the Roane County High School robotics team compete at the Smoky Mountains regional tournament as part of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Photo credit: Michael Messing Students from the Roane County High School robotics team compete at the Smoky Mountains regional tournament as part of the FIRST Robotics Competition. Photo credit: Michael Messing (hi-res image)

Robotics fever continues to spread in East Tennessee, thanks in part to Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s ongoing support for the FIRST Robotics Competition. Many ORNL staff members donate their time and expertise to mentoring local teams throughout the grueling six-week build season, during which students design and build a robot to meet the challenges of the year’s game.

Fifty high school teams from across the United States recently competed in the Smoky Mountains regional tournament, held March 27-29 in Knoxville. ORNL’s Lonnie Love was recognized for his outstanding adult mentorship with the Woodie Flowers Finalist Award.

In 2014, UT-Battelle provided financial support for 13 local teams: L&N STEM Academy; Hardin Valley Academy; Roane County, Catholic, Gibbs, Farragut, Webb, Halls, Clinton, Oak Ridge, South Doyle and Seymour high schools; and a Maryville area team including students from the Blount Home Education Association, William Blount, Heritage and Alcoa high schools.

The FIRST Robotics experience, said ORNL mentor Ken Tobin, is valuable for kids and adults alike.

“Personally, I get a big kick out of turning these kids on to science and engineering as something valuable that solves real-world problems,” Tobin said. “When you write down the equation for determining the intersection of a circle with a plane and use it to figure out how to design and place a lever to throw a Frisbee, and they say, ‘Wow -- trigonometry and geometry really are useful!’ There’s satisfaction in seeing the light go on.  I’ve been amazed at how hungry the Roane County High School kids are to create, build things, and compete. They’re like sponges soaking up water.  I think that most of the students I have worked with over the past two years are looking at their futures differently now.”

Several local teams snagged awards at the Knoxville competition:

Oak Ridge High School was a regionals finalist, qualifying the team to compete in the world championships in St. Louis April 23-26. They also received the Innovation in Control Award.

Hardin Valley Academy won the Industrial Safety and Industrial Design awards. HVA is also headed to the championships after winning the Palmetto regional competition in Myrtle Beach.

Catholic High School was recognized with the Excellence in Engineering Award, and Halls High School received the Creativity Award.

 -  Morgan McCorkle,  865.574.7308,  April 03, 2014
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