Robotics Club partners with Great Plains College

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A new generation of enthusiastic young minds will be utilizing the Great Plains College campus over the coming weeks following a partnership announcement between the College and the Great Plains Robotics Club.

The 10 members of the Robotics Club will be utilizing college facilities over the next six weeks as they prepare their 2014 entry in the FIRST Robotics Competition. A formal partnership was signed between the two groups last Thursday.

"It's really exciting. This is our second season and it's nice to have the opportunity to partner with the College. I think it will really stabilize our club, and it'll really help us focus on the tasks of the competition," explained Robotics Club adult leader Brent Neudorf.

"We have to have a classroom resource where we brainstorm, strategize and we do all the paperwork. We have access to shop facilities and the welding shop for fabrication. We have the electrical shop for the electronics that have to be assembled and tested. So we can work in the various shops simultaneously on different aspects of the robot, which will speed up the build. Instead of doing it in a linear fashion, we can do more of the build simultaneously."

As a rookie entry in the 2013 First Robotics Competition, the team participated in a competition entitled Ultimate Ascent where they were tasked with designing and fabricated a robot capable of throwing a flying disc into a target. As a rookie team, admittedly they they did not know the extent of strategies and designs to become a top finisher, although they did finish eighth out of 35 entries.

"As a beginner we weren't experienced enough to know what is important in strategizing. Having gone through one year we are considerably smarter and we will use all of that experience in this year's build."

This year's challenge is a daunting task, as they will be fabricating a robot that will throw and then receive a two foot diameter ball. They will be accomplishing this task with another team not knowing the design of their robot.

"So we have to learn to pass to that team, and catch a pass from that other robot, which we've never seen before."

The students, who range in age from Grade 9 to grade 12, do not have to be experts to participate in the club, as they have a chance to learn by doing.

"That's the part that you see is learning electronics, and learning programming, and learning mechanical design and CAD modelling. But underlying all of that they also learn teamwork. How to solve problems. When we try something and it doesn't work, how do we fix it? And you learn as a team how to fix problems."

Great Plains College's Director of Development Marc Butikofer highlighted that the college is excited to provide a home for the Robotics Club and assist them with shop space and classroom availability.

"This gives the club a home so that they know where they're coming every day. They don't have to pack things away every night and they can get going on projects right away," Butikofer said. "It's amazing what they're taking on. So anything that we can do to help them we will. It's an amazing young group of students and it's going to be exciting to see what they do here in their second year."

An added benefit of the partnership is their ability to showcase their facilities to potential students.

"As a post secondary institution we're really committed to the success of the students, but a big part of that too is being able to encourage future students to be able to pursue training in a post secondary. That's what the Robotics Club is all about, and really exposing students here in the area to engineering, and technology and trades."

Organizations: Great Plains College, Swift Current Robotics Club

Geographic location: Swift Current, Great Plains College

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