Small but mighty: PSHS Robotics team advances to state finals
A small group of 11 students at Philip Simmons High have bonded in a big way. Coding, engineering, and real-world problem solving have captivated this club, and it’s led to the building of an award-winning Robotics team that’s gearing up to compete in the prestigious state competition to be held at Gaffney High School on Feb. 14-15.
Team members include sophomore Devin Casper, seventh-grader Dylan Casper, sophomore Evan Campbell, sophomore Sean Robinson, junior Felix Fryman, sophomore Søren Spina, sophomore EmmaLee Fort, sophomore Jack Rose, freshman Cassie Carswell, junior Bryan Pisciotti, and seventh-grader Taylor Boney. The team is mentored by Kate Sablotsky, the school’s Project Lead the Way teacher, and Shamoana Boney, a mathematics teacher.
Competition requirements include building a robot and programming it to perform a series of tasks automatically and execute some functions with a driver. Sablotsky said, “The kids built the robot from scratch and coded it to perform the necessary tasks. They have also coded it to be able to be driven during the driver phase. We started the year with a box of metal parts, three computers with no coding software, and no code written. We have really come a long way!”
As a team mentor, Sablotsky started the club by reaching out to another established team and inviting them to attend their first few meetings. She has allowed the students to make their own design decisions while assisting in problem solving in building and debug coding.
The competition also tests students on the skills necessary to become an engineer. There is a judging portion where the team members are asked questions by an expert panel. “The team is required to keep an engineering notebook,” added Sablotsky. “This notebook is very specific, and the judges look through it as well. Finally, we are judged on our community outreach. How have we been involved in the community and what outside businesses do we have helping us.”
Devin Casper, the founding member, serves as team captain. He explained that every goal set incorporates the application of STEM skills. When building the robots, the students use technology to power the robot and its movements and they make parts for it using a 3D printer. The team uses math to calculate the measurements for each piece of the robot and they apply engineering principals to the design, construction, and coding of the robot. “Robotics really gives us a chance to experience STEM and its importance firsthand, while also being very fun and rewarding,” Casper said.
When asked about the team’s biggest obstacle, Casper replied, “I feel like our biggest challenge was the designing and development of a mechanism that could allow us to lift blocks. However, we are not giving up and we continue to test new ideas every meeting!”
Principal Dr. Anthony Dixon said, “We are extremely proud of Ms. Sablotsky and the PSHS Robotics team. We continue to forge firsts in our school through the commitment, hard work, and the promise to ensure the success of all our students. I look forward to watching this team develop and wish them the best of luck at the state finals.”