By Devin Corbitt-Garcia, The Belton Journal
Welcome to the Belton Independent School District, where every kid is a winner and any goal is achievable. No one knows that better than the Belton High School (BHS) Robotics Team. Last Saturday, this group of students achieved a long-standing goal of advancing to regional competition in the BEST Robotics competition, earning the distinction of Second Best Overall.
BHS students created a mock company, Heart of Texas (HOT) Mining, to develop and demonstrate a robot, all within a 6-week period. The company was led by senior Sijin Woo and encompassed multiple divisions, including Marketing, Booth, Programming and Engineering, among others. This allowed students with all kinds of talents to participate in BEST, not just those who could build a robot.
During the past six weeks, these students worked tirelessly to finalize their project, and their hard work certainly paid off. The group placed in the top three in all categories, including bringing home gold in Marketing.
“It was exciting,” sophomore Stephen Wissinger said. “It’s like, when you’re watching a movie and you anticipate something, you get built up. Then, right before it happens, you don’t know what you’re going to feel. That’s what that moment was like. We were so intense. When they called our name for us winning, we were all just overwhelmed with joy.”
During the competition, Wissinger served as one of the five robot drivers, guiding the robot around the course collecting “commodities” and bringing them back to the starting area to be sorted.
“The drivers all did really well, from getting to the mine cart, lifting up and taking it back to the starting area,” Wissinger said. “We all did exceptionally well. Our robot itself lifted up the mine cart with ease. It was amazing to watch because we all poured our heart and soul into that.”
A new aspect of the competition this year was that a designated student was able to interact with the commodities when they were in the starting point. Wissinger also occupied this position, called a spotter, when he was not driving, and sophomore Justice Smith served as spotter during Wissinger’s drive.
“Stephen was very good at spotting, telling the driver when it was okay to go so that the cart wouldn’t get stuck,” freshman Kinsey Seng said. “Stephen did a good job with that and sorting. One round, he barely got them sorted to get the points when time ran out.”
But the competition was more than just successes—HOT Mining also expedited several learning moments throughout the day.
“The wheels (of the robot) kept locking up,” Wissinger said. “When I was driving, the wheel kept stopping and wouldn’t work until I would make the forklift go up or down. “(HOT Mining CEO Sijin) Woo had to drive next, and the wheel locked up entirely.”
“The gearboxes had come loose from going over the ledges, and we didn’t have time to replace it (the motor) during the competition. After almost every round, we had to take out the motor and tighten everything back,” Woo said. “There’s a Robust award for least repairs made—”
“We all looked at each other and laughed because we knew we couldn’t win that award,” Sang said.
Of course, HOT Mining “employees” will repair the robot before the regional competition, which will take place Nov. 13-14. One way to help with repairs is to re-cut the wooden structures within the robot. The current robot utilizes wood cut by students with power tools.
“With power tools, there is a lot of human error,” Woo said.
So, the newly outfitted robot will boast wood cut with the school’s CNC machine, thanks to senior Matthew Phillips’ skill and the generosity of Construction Management teacher Craig Sullivan.
The group also plans to edit their engineering notebook, which documents HOT Mining’s progress throughout the competition.
“There were some extraneous information that we have to cut out, and also touch up on some of the pictures,” Woo said.
However, these students will be hard-pressed to complete their upgrades or even get to the regional competition without the help of their Big Red Community.
“We need to fundraise a lot more money,” Seng said.
During the course of the competition, the group sent out more than 40 letters asking for sponsorships, to no avail.
“We’re going to try reaching out to local businesses again to see if they can sponsor us,” Wissinger said.
“It’s for the cost of the hotel rooms and food, new supplies for our robot,” Woo said.
To sponsor the BHS Robotics team or learn more about the multi-faceted organization, contact Toni Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org.