RoboRiot takeover is near

Falls-based robotics team shoots for success at competition
by Jeff Pederson of The Review staff


THE SHEBOYGAN COUNTY ROBO RIOT 3418 team is set to compete in the FIRST Robotics regional competition March 20-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The team, which is based at Sheboygan Falls High School, includes high school students from Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South and Random Lake high schools. — Review photo by Jeff Pederson THE SHEBOYGAN COUNTY ROBO RIOT 3418 team is set to compete in the FIRST Robotics regional competition March 20-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The team, which is based at Sheboygan Falls High School, includes high school students from Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South and Random Lake high schools. — Review photo by Jeff Pederson After building a solid operating system over the past four years, the Sheboygan County RoboRiot 3418 robotics team is poised to make a major breakthrough.

Members of this year’s Robo- Riot squad hope this is the year for that all of their hard work comes to full fruition.

The multi-school high school robotics squad, which formed in December 2009, is set to enter its fifth For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Regional Robotics Competition March 20-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee.

This year’s squad includes 34 students and 16 adult professional mentors from the corporate and education field of engineering and electrical design.

The roster of participants reflects a health leap from 2013, when the team had 27 students and eight adult mentors.

“It has defi- nitely grown over the past few years,” Kohler Co. Senior Staff Engineer and Lead RoboRiot Mentor Dan Schlagenhaft said. “The interest level is higher than it has ever been and the kids this year are highly motivated to do a good job and keeping improving.”

The squad features 27 students from Sheboygan Falls High School and additional students from Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South, Random Lake and Plymouth high schools, as well as two home-schooled students.

The 2014 team heads into this year’s regional competition looking to improve on last year’s 44th place finish out of 55 teams.


THE SHEBOYGAN COUNTY ROBO RIOT 3418 team is set to compete in the FIRST Robotics regional competition March 20-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The team, which is based at Sheboygan Falls High School, includes high school students from Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South and Random Lake high schools. This year’s RoboRiot 3418 team includes: Austin Arenz (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Joe Barber (Random Lake, freshman), Josh Behling (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Collin Berke (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Jason Bonner (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Eric Burgard (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Mitch Christiansen (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Sam Debbink (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Noah Graff (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Carver Hass (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Ben Haefs (Plymouth, sophomore), Marcus Hodges (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Wei Ling Huang (Sheboygan South, senior), Seth Irwin (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Preston Kvindlog (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Jordan LaPean (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Josh LeMahieu (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Joe Liederbach (home school freshman), Stephen Liederbach (home school, junior), Josh Loppnow (Random Lake, freshman), Alec Meyer (Sheboygan Falls. sophomore), Kody Nichols (Sheboygan North, freshman), Aaron Rathke (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Josh Rathke (Sheboygan Falls. sophomore), Samantha Reiter (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Isaiah Richards (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Haley Schibur (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Brek Simonich (Sheboygan Falls, junior), John Spoerl (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Joshua Weichhold (Sheboygan Falls, senior), Dalton Winter (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Anthony Xiong (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Asuewin Xiong (Sheboygan Falls, junior) and Jacob Zehr (Sheboygan Falls, junior). This year’s adult mentors are Eric Albsmeier (Kohler Co.), Terry Arenz (Kohler Co.), Shawn Bozarth (Gardner Denver), Tom Burgard (Sheboygan Chevrolet), Peter Fox (PanelTech), Jeff Sass (Curt Joa), Ed Hughes (Sheboygan Falls High School), Jim Kvindlog (Kvindlog Services), Eric Liederbach (Sargento), Kirby Nichols (Kohler Co.), Tim Pasche (Kohler), Becky Schlagenhaft (St. Agnes Hospital), Dan Schlagenhaft (Kohler Co.) Shawn Schlagenhaft (UWP), Steve Simonich (Stoelting LLC) and Awadhesh Thukar (Kohler Co.). - Review photo by Jeff Pederson THE SHEBOYGAN COUNTY ROBO RIOT 3418 team is set to compete in the FIRST Robotics regional competition March 20-22 at the U.S. Cellular Arena in Milwaukee. The team, which is based at Sheboygan Falls High School, includes high school students from Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth, Sheboygan North, Sheboygan South and Random Lake high schools. This year’s RoboRiot 3418 team includes: Austin Arenz (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Joe Barber (Random Lake, freshman), Josh Behling (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Collin Berke (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Jason Bonner (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Eric Burgard (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Mitch Christiansen (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Sam Debbink (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Noah Graff (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Carver Hass (Sheboygan Falls, sophomore), Ben Haefs (Plymouth, sophomore), Marcus Hodges (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Wei Ling Huang (Sheboygan South, senior), Seth Irwin (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Preston Kvindlog (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Jordan LaPean (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Josh LeMahieu (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Joe Liederbach (home school freshman), Stephen Liederbach (home school, junior), Josh Loppnow (Random Lake, freshman), Alec Meyer (Sheboygan Falls. sophomore), Kody Nichols (Sheboygan North, freshman), Aaron Rathke (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Josh Rathke (Sheboygan Falls. sophomore), Samantha Reiter (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Isaiah Richards (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Haley Schibur (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Brek Simonich (Sheboygan Falls, junior), John Spoerl (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Joshua Weichhold (Sheboygan Falls, senior), Dalton Winter (Sheboygan Falls, junior), Anthony Xiong (Sheboygan Falls, freshman), Asuewin Xiong (Sheboygan Falls, junior) and Jacob Zehr (Sheboygan Falls, junior). This year’s adult mentors are Eric Albsmeier (Kohler Co.), Terry Arenz (Kohler Co.), Shawn Bozarth (Gardner Denver), Tom Burgard (Sheboygan Chevrolet), Peter Fox (PanelTech), Jeff Sass (Curt Joa), Ed Hughes (Sheboygan Falls High School), Jim Kvindlog (Kvindlog Services), Eric Liederbach (Sargento), Kirby Nichols (Kohler Co.), Tim Pasche (Kohler), Becky Schlagenhaft (St. Agnes Hospital), Dan Schlagenhaft (Kohler Co.) Shawn Schlagenhaft (UWP), Steve Simonich (Stoelting LLC) and Awadhesh Thukar (Kohler Co.). - Review photo by Jeff Pederson “We had a very young team last year and we still have a young team with just one senior, which I think speaks well for the future of this program,” Schlagenhaft said. “We finished 8th at the regional contest in 2012 and last year we dropped down a bit

“We had a very nice robot last year, but we had a few unforeseen mechanical problems pop up and our robot stopped working in two matches,” he said. “We learned from that and have worked on solidifying the electrical communication within the robot. We feel we are ready to make a big jump ahead this year.”

The 2014 contest, titled “Aerial Assist,” requires teams to build, program and operate a robot capable of passing balls measuring two feet in diameter from robot to robot over the span of a specially design court.

Teams earn points by shooting balls over a mid-court truss and through an 8-foot high goal at the end of the court.

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.

“This contest really promotes teamwork among the teams and the robots,” Schlagenhaft said. “Forming a good alliance with the other two teams you are working with is a big key. We won’t know what teams we will get paired with until the day of the competition, which makes things really interesting.”

Preparations for this year’s regional contest began on Jan. 6, following a worldwide FIRST Robotic Competition kickoff event at Kohler Co. on Jan. 4.

“All teams across the country learn about the details of the competition through a video animation piece that is broadcast on the first Saturday in January,” Schlagenhaft said. “After that, the teams gets down to work and it gets pretty intense.”

Teams had just six weeks to design, prototype, build and program the robot for mandatory completion on Feb. 18.

“Six weeks is a pretty short time to get everything done as there is a lot to do, but the kids have done a great job every year,” Schlagenhaft said. “This year we had to finish up the robot and bag it on Tuesday Feb. 18. After that, we are not allowed to touch it until the day of the competition.”

Team members took part in a demanding production schedule meeting four to five nights for three hours on weekdays and seven hours on Saturdays.

“These kids take on a big commitment,” Schlagenhaft said. “I would estimate that the team put in 175-180 total hours on this project.”

According to Schlagenhaft, the team has been preparing for the regional contest since fall.

“We actually started meeting in October,” he said. ‘We met once a week through December. During that time we integrated the team and selected the captains for each main part of the project. We also do some training and preparation to get the kids ready for the build season.”

The RoboRiot team was split into four main project areas, including electrical and programming, chassis construction and fabrication, sub-mechanical 1 and sub-mechanical 2.

Team captains are Stephen Liederbach (electrical), Eric Burgard

(chassis), John

Spoerl (sub mechanical 1) and

Austin Arenz

(sub mechanical

2).

“There is a pretty intense selection process that we go through to pick the team captains,” Schlagenhaft said. “The candidates are required to submit an application, have some robotics experience, display leadership potential and have at least a 3.5 GPA.”

Each team captain offered a different perspective on the project.

“This project kind of mirrors what you would do at a normal job,” Spoerl said. “As a captain, we need to communicate well with the team and do a good job managing the duties.”

“It is a very good way to simulate a real world business,” Arenz said. “For me, that is one of the best parts about it.”

“We truly do have to work as a team to get everything done and operating properly,” Liederbach said.

“There have been some challenges, but we run to run things through our group and brainstorm to work things out for the good of the team,” Burgard said.

Spoerl said the team has some clear goals in mind.

“We want to finish in the top eight, that’s our goal for sure,” Spoerl said. “We fell we have a pretty competitive, well-versed robot.”

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

“We design and construct the robot through a fully developed 3-D 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,” Schlagenhaft said. “The kids are also able to test the function of the robot through the CAD system.”

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

Twenty-five 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, approximately 1,800 students that are expected to compete at a regional contest in Milwaukee in March.

For the second consecutive year, Sheboygan Falls High School has served as home base of the RoboRiot team this 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.

“We have to thank the Sheboygan Falls School District for being so supportive,” Schlagenhaft said. “They have been generous enough to let us use their facility and equipment these part two years. It has grown into a special relationship that is a win-win for everyone involved.”

The program is enjoying new levels of success thanks to continued support and promotion.

“Robotics is really growing in popularity in schools right now through some community outreach type of events we have done and just word of mouth.. There is a middle school First Lego League robotics team in Sheboygan Falls and several other similar programs int eh county that are serving as feeder systems too.

“Another great thing about it is that it is being incorporated into the regular STEM curriculum in the schools,” he said. “It is introducing young students to the challenges and rewards of careers in robotics and CAD-related professions, which is great.”

In addition to receiving significant support from Kohler Co. and Vollrath, which also support sister teams in Valders and Mishicot, several other sponsors have stepped up to lend support this year.

“Kohler and Vollrath have supported us in a big way,” Schlagenhaft said. “This year we also have Curt Joa, Sargento, Panel Tech and Gardner Denver helping us out. The support we’ve received from all of our sponsors has been outstanding. We wouldn’t be in existence without them.”

A large group of adult mentors is credited with helping the team making big advances this year.

“The new advisors and mentors have made a big difference this year,” Schlagenhaft said.

“We have a number of parents helping out this year, which has added a nice dynamic to the project. It is ideal to have four to five mentors per students and we definitely have that and more this year.”

After taking part in a mini-regional contest recently at Sussex, the team enters the regional meet with a strong dose of confidence.

“There were 19 teams at the Sussex event and nearly all of them will be at regionals,” Schlagenhaft said. “We’ve already played about one-third of the field. The kids have come up with a really unique wheel shooter design, and we feel confident that we will do well with it.”

“There are 24 total teams in the final round, which for the most part is made up of the larger teams,” he said. “It is a tough competition with around 60 teams expected this year.

“There are teams there from not only Wisconsin, but also from throughout the Midwest, including Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan and Indiana.”

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. It is really a highenergy couple of days, that’s for sure.”


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