Mr. (and Ms.) Robotos

County team looks to make noise at regional competition
by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff


THE ROBOT RIOT 3148 high school robotics team is set to compete at the 2103 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Regional Competition, which will be held March 21-23, at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. Team members include Austin Arenz (Sheboygan Falls), Josh Behling (Sheboygan Falls), Nate Berg (Sheboygan Falls), Collin Berke (Sheboygan Falls), Eric Burgard (Sheboygan Falls), Austin Corgard (Sheboygan North), Sam Debbink (Sheboygan Falls), Tylor Genske (Sheboygan Falls), Rachel Gremminger (Sheboygan Falls), Ben Haefs (Plymouth), Anne Hareid (Howards Grove), Marcus Hodges (Sheboygan Falls), Seth Irwin (Sheboygan Falls), Cameron Keaton (Warriner), Devin Krahn (Plymouth), Paul Kriegel (Plymouth), Stephen Liederbach (home school), Alec Meyer (Sheboygan Falls), Josh Rathke (Sheboygan Falls), Samantha Reiter (Sheboygan Falls), Haley Schibur (Sheboygan Falls), Brian Schlagenhaft (Fond du Lac), Brek Simonich (Sheboygan Falls), Cameron West (Sheboygan Falls), Ashewin Xiong (Sheboygan Falls), Jacob Zehr (Sheboygan Falls), Walter Holtrop (Sheboygan Christian) and John Spoerl (Sheboygan Falls). Adult mentors include: Eric Albsmeier (Kohler Co.), Joe Blake (Kohler Co.), Allison Blake (Kohler Co.), Peter Fox (PanelTech), Ed Hughes (Sheboygan Falls High School), Eric Liederbach (Sargento), Mat McEachern (Kohler Co.), Becky Schlagenhaft (St. Agnes Hospital), Dan Schlagenhaft (Kohler Co.) and Awadhesh Thukar (Kohler Co.). — Review photo by Jeff Pederson THE ROBOT RIOT 3148 high school robotics team is set to compete at the 2103 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Regional Competition, which will be held March 21-23, at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. Team members include Austin Arenz (Sheboygan Falls), Josh Behling (Sheboygan Falls), Nate Berg (Sheboygan Falls), Collin Berke (Sheboygan Falls), Eric Burgard (Sheboygan Falls), Austin Corgard (Sheboygan North), Sam Debbink (Sheboygan Falls), Tylor Genske (Sheboygan Falls), Rachel Gremminger (Sheboygan Falls), Ben Haefs (Plymouth), Anne Hareid (Howards Grove), Marcus Hodges (Sheboygan Falls), Seth Irwin (Sheboygan Falls), Cameron Keaton (Warriner), Devin Krahn (Plymouth), Paul Kriegel (Plymouth), Stephen Liederbach (home school), Alec Meyer (Sheboygan Falls), Josh Rathke (Sheboygan Falls), Samantha Reiter (Sheboygan Falls), Haley Schibur (Sheboygan Falls), Brian Schlagenhaft (Fond du Lac), Brek Simonich (Sheboygan Falls), Cameron West (Sheboygan Falls), Ashewin Xiong (Sheboygan Falls), Jacob Zehr (Sheboygan Falls), Walter Holtrop (Sheboygan Christian) and John Spoerl (Sheboygan Falls). Adult mentors include: Eric Albsmeier (Kohler Co.), Joe Blake (Kohler Co.), Allison Blake (Kohler Co.), Peter Fox (PanelTech), Ed Hughes (Sheboygan Falls High School), Eric Liederbach (Sargento), Mat McEachern (Kohler Co.), Becky Schlagenhaft (St. Agnes Hospital), Dan Schlagenhaft (Kohler Co.) and Awadhesh Thukar (Kohler Co.). — Review photo by Jeff Pederson Over the past three years, the Sheboygan County RoboRiot 3418 robotics team has been on a steady rise to the top of the mechanical heap.

The high school robotics squad, which formed in December 2009, is set to enter its fourth For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Regional Robotics Competition March 21- 23 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

This year’s team features 28 students from Sheboygan Falls, Sheboygan North, Plymouth, Fond du Lac, Howards Grove and Sheboygan Christian high schools, as well as 10 mentors from the corporate and education field of engineering and electrical design.

The 2013 team heads into this year’s regional competition aiming to eclipse a strong 8th place finish at last year’s event.

After recording 24th and 22nd place finishes respectively in its first two regional appearances, Kohler Co. senior staff engineer and lead RoboRiot mentor Dan Schlagenhaft was pleased with the team’s remarkable improvement in 2012.

“The team did very well last year in just the third year at the regional event,” Schlagenhaft said. “Our team got into the final competition by placing in the top eight through the seeding matches and competition rounds, which is quite an achievement considering 50 of the best robotics teams in the Midwest were there.

“I equate getting into the final eight at the regional competition to getting into the Elite 8 in the NCAA basketball tournament,” he said. “For a smaller and relatively newer team like ours, it was really big.”

Last year’s team also made a splash by picking up the Innovation and Control Award at the 2012 FIRST regional competition.

“It was really a nice award for the team to get last year,” Schlagenhaft said. “The award goes to the team that has the best automated solution and inventory management scheme.”

Schlagenhaft said the unique format requires each of the eight teams that make it to the final round to select two other teams to form a three-team alliance for the final matches.

“There are 24 total teams in the final round, which is typically dominated by the larger teams,” he said. “It was neat because we were going toe-to-toe with the top teams in the entire Midwest not only from Wisconsin, but also from Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana.

“Our goal this year is to improve on our performance from last year,” he said.

The top three teams at the Milwaukee regional event will advance to the world championship competition in St. Louis April 25-28.

The 2013 contest, titled “Ultimate Ascent,” requires teams to build, program and operate a robot capable of picking up frisbees off the ground, lifting them into a feeding mechanism and loading them into a shooting chamber.

Teams earn points by shooting the frisbees at targets of varying height.

“There will be targets set up at high and low levels which correspond to scoring three points, two points or one point if the target is hit,” Schlagenhaft said. “There is also a pyramid pipe-like structure that if hit is worth five points.

“The team can score additional points if the robot can climb the pyramid to different heights,” he said. “Each match features two alliances of three teams each, so there are six robots on the field at the same time from each of the teams. The alliance team that scores the most points in two minutes and 15 seconds wins the match.”

The event always draws a large and enthusiastic crowd.

“It is a great spectator sport,” Schlagenhaft said. “People get really into it and the students love having a chance to show off their work and be in the spotlight.”

Preparations for this year’s Ultimate Ascent regional contest began on Jan. 7, following a worldwide FIRST Robotic Competition kickoff event at Kohler Co. on Jan. 5.

The launch event was broadcast live via NASATV broadcast and webcast.

RoboRiot team members had just six weeks to design, prototype, build and program the robot for shipping on Feb. 20.

The team endured rigorous production schedule meeting four nights for four hours on weekdays and eight hours on Saturdays.

“It is a big commitment that’s for sure,” Schlagenhaft said. “I would estimate that the team put in 175- 180 total hours on this project.”

The RoboRiot team was split into six project areas, including electrical and programming, construction and fabrication, computer-aided design (CAD), accounting and purchasing, marketing and communications and special events.

Nineteen of the 28 members of this year’s team are students at Sheboygan Falls High School, which has served as the new home base of the RoboRiot team this year.

“It has been great to be able to do our work at Sheboygan Falls High School this year,” SFHS technical education instructor and team mentor Ed Hughes said. “It is a much bigger space than we’ve had before and we have been able to use the space more effi- ciently as well.”

Schlagenhaft said when the team had been based at Sheboygan Falls Middle School and Plymouth High School in past years, team members still had to use machines at SFHS to make some pieces of the robot.

“Our pieces are designed through a CAD system and then transferred to an automated manufacturing program to produce parts through the use of a CNC machine that is at the high school.

“The kids have really enjoyed doing the manufacturing part of it this year,” he said. “The CNC machine was used a great deal to build many of the key parts of the robot.”

In addition, Hughes said the team crafted a number of prototypes at SFHS this year.

“We built more prototypes this year than ever before,” Hughes said. “It was nice to have access to the equipment in the wood and metal shop at the high school to complete that process.”

The FIRST began in 1989, when Dean Kamen developed the non-profit organization to promote young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

Twenty-four years later, the FIRST Robotics Competition has grown from 28 participating teams in 1989 to over 51,000 high school students in 81 cities throughout the world.

Schlagenhaft says mentors guide students in the right direction, but refrain from getting too involved in the actual building process.

Students on the RoboRiot team are required to handle all of the hands-on work, including assembly, programming, construction, fabrication and operation.

“Our mentor team is in agreement on our approach,” Schlagenhaft said. “We try to be as handsoff as we can be. We are here to lead the students on a path of learning.

“We had four new captains step up this year to take on leadership roles,” he said. “Because of the inexperience it took a little longer to get going this year, but they really got on the right track and became a very self-directed group. Although they are new leaders this year, they've actually made more progress with the programming side of things than we did last year.”

Schlagenhaft credited the Sheboygan Falls School District in supporting the efforts of the FIRST robotics program through an emphasis on the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiative.

“It is great to see the Sheboygan Falls School District embrace robotics as part of STEM,” he said. “I feel robotics is really gaining traction in this area. There are middle school robotics teams in Sheboygan Falls and Howards Grove that are serving as feeder systems.”

In addition to receiving signifi- cant support from Kohler Co. and Vollrath.

“Kohler and Vollrath have supported us in a big way,” Schlagenhaft said. “The support we've received from all of our sponsors has been outstanding. We wouldn't be in existence without them.”


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