Garden City High School senior Adrian Longoria is the head builder in the school’s robotics program.
Longoria went through 26 different designs before he and the other 20 or so robotics students settled on one — a 16-pound bot made of plywood and PVC plastic.
This weekend, the GCHS robotics class will take their robot to Hartman Arena in Wichita to compete in Kansas BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science & Technology) 2015, an engineering contest hosted by Wichita State University.
A motor sits in the center of the bot’s chassis, powering two nine-inch, non-slip wheels and a crane with a scoop on the end. An electronic hitch on the back hooks to a 3-pound trailer.
The team hasn’t thought of a name for the bot.
On Wednesday afternoon, Longoria and a group of seven high school and middle school students in the robotics program visited Alta Brown Elementary School to demonstrate their robot and help the elementary students there with their own competition, Odyssey of the Mind.
Andie Alvarado, a third-grade teacher at Alta Brown and assistant theater director at GCHS, sponsors the Odyssey of the Mind club.
“It is an international problem-solving program,” Alvarado said. “Every year, kids are given different types of long-term problems that all have very vague and yet specific specifications.”
Longoria and the GCHS robotics team programmed their bot to be controlled by a 14-button VEX joystick that looks like a contemporary gaming console controller.
GCHS robotics and mathematics teacher Yuriy Drubinskiy said the class and the competition teaches students how to work with tools and turn a design on paper into a real working robot.
“There’s also a big teamwork part of it,” Drubinskiy said. “If a group of students are working on, for example, the arm, they have to understand what the group of students that are working on the chassis are doing in order to make it all come together.”
Drubinskiy said the competition will host about 30 other teams from around Kansas, a team from Missouri and one from Arkansas.
This is the first year that GCHS has offered a robotics class and the third year that Drubinskiy has sponsored the after-school robotics program there.
“Each year, we’re getting better,” Longoria said. “This year, there is clear leadership and the different teams are focused. Everybody is working together.”
Alta Brown actually has three teams that will compete in Odyssey of the Mind next March. They each started working on their own problems that they will have to solve in competition with students in their age range.
The Alta Brown students, in third and fourth grade, are trying to build a vehicle that two of them can drive without human propulsion to pick up discarded objects and move them to a container to be recycled.
The robotics students paired up with the elementary students to help brainstorm ideas on how to build such a vehicle.
Longoria joined Alex Marcellus, 9, to come up with a vehicle design.
Adrian and Alex ended up with a vehicle that could carry two people and objects in the back, like a pickup made of PVC piping, a small motor and other lightweight materials.
“The vehicle doesn’t need to go as fast as I thought, it just needs to move,” Marcellus said.
Adrian had explained the importance of torque in the vehicle’s wheels over how fast they turn.
“We’re trying to get more kids learning now, as young as they can, because some of them are in middle school,” Longoria said. “By doing that, when they come here (to high school), they already know what they’re doing.”
Longoria attended Alta Brown himself, and said it was nice to return after seven years away in a kind of teaching role.
After the engineering competition in Wichita this weekend, Dubinskiy hopes to add more lessons about motors and mechanics to the robotics program.
At the suggestion of his grandfather Robert, Longoria grew up working on small hobbyist projects.
Now, after school and the robotics program, he works on more complicated engineering projects on his own. He actually wants to go into both engineering and culinary school.
As the robotics club was winding down on Wednesday night, Longoria left a little early to finish homework and work on his halloween costume.
“I’m building an entire body costume, with wiring and audio,” he said. “I’ve made it full scale. It’s not papier-mache or fabric. It has a ribcage, arms and a head.”
The costume, modeled after “Foxy,” one of the villains from the Five Nights at Freddy’s horror video game series, will have two motorcycle battery-powered 50-watt speakers that will play screams just like the character in the game and eyes that light up.
“It’s taken me since summer to work on it,” Longoria said.