Robots Ready to Rock

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brooke Binns Three students from Randolph County are participating in the National Robotics Olympiad National Championship Invitational at Fairmont State University today and tomorrow. From left are Luke Anger, Thomas Nixon and Annmarie Raschella.

ELKINS — Three students from Randolph County are preparing their self-built and programmed robot to compete in a nationwide robotics competition this weekend.

Today and tomorrow, Luke Anger and Annmarie Raschella, both ninth-graders at Elkins High School, and Thomas Nixon, an eighth-grader at Elkins Middle School, will be competing in the National Robotics Olympiad National Championship Invitation at Fairmont State University.

According to the organization’s website, WRO-USA is a member of the World Robot Olympiad, an international robot competition that brings together young people from all over the world to develop their creativity, and design and expand upon their problem-solving skills through challenging and educational robot competitions and activities.

“With this competition, we focus on the robot — it is a harder challenge and you have to learn and memorize how to rebuild your robot the day of competition,” Raschella said.

She explained the trio will have three opportunities to earn the maximum score possible in the competition, 180 points.

“It’s really complicated this year — this is one of the hardest competitions they’ve had for a few years,” she said.

Teams create, design and build a robot model that is capable to perform a challenge, and every year a new theme and challenge is set, according to the organization’s website.

The team went on to explain that every possible code they could need during competition is stored on their robot, in addition to an SD card, so that they are able to utilize whichever code necessary to complete the task given to them on the day of competition.

“Multiple tasks must be completed in one program — your points don’t roll over, so they take your highest and fastest score,” Raschella said. “You have to program every possible combination. … There are a total of 15 combinations to program. … Our motors are temperamental, so we can’t move anything over by even as much as a peg.”

Nixon added the team — “Anger Management” — has been virtually self-taught.

“Most of (what we do) is easy, interactive stuff,” he said. “Normally, when (Luke and I) don’t get it, we go to (Annmarie). If she doesn’t get it, we go to the book, and if the book doesn’t get it, we find another path.”

“When I was part of the school team (at Elkins Middle School), a woman from NASA came in and taught us about coding,” Raschella added.

She went on to say that the “Anger Management” team received assistance from a camp adviser over the summer.

“When we were first building the foundation for this program, it was at a camp we went to to qualify (for nationals), and there was (an instructor) there who was really good with the computers, so he was able to help us out; from there, it has been a lot of tweaking.”

Each of the three students agreed that their interest in robotics and participation in the World Robotics Olympiad competition will help to better prepare them for their future careers.

For example, Nixon noted the engineering aspect of robotics is something that interests him; furthermore, he added he believes the future of robotics is “past the moon.”

“I think ‘Hey, it’s engineering and robots, so let’s do it,'” Nixon said. “So, I think the future of robotics is probably past the moon, to Mars. We’re going to go deep into space with robots — these are just ‘Earthling Robots.'”

Logan Nixon, Thomas’s sister, works to bring new ideas and suggestions to the team during their weekly practices, acting as an “apprentice,” her brother said.

If team ‘Anger Management’ places in the top two in the competition in Fairmont this weekend, they will earn the opportunity to compete in the world-wide competition in Thailand.