EDUCATION

Mount Olive Students to Compete in National Robotic Championship

BY Briana Vannozzi, Correspondent |

We’re getting a look at last minute modifications on a working robot built by the students of MORT — the Mount Olive Robotics Team. Now in it’s 21st year, the program, which started as a small club, has a full blown curriculum and nearly 150 students who compete on varsity and JV teams.

“There’s a game that’s announced in January and we’re given six weeks to build and design a robot. Then we put that robot to competition against teams within our district as well as across the country and around the world,” said MORT Project Manager Matt Otey.

This year’s task was to design a robot that will deliver gears from one end of a field to the other, with the ultimate purpose of turning rotors on an airship. They’ll put it to the test at what’s called the FIRST national championship, which is for inspiration and recognition of science and technology. Students use high level engineering skills to fabricate 120 pound, 3 to 4 foot tall robots.

“During build season, my role is programming so I help write software and generally that kind of thing. During competition season, I am the pit captain so I coordinate our efforts when we’re at the event,” said MORT Senior Matthew Turi.

“We meet all day from 9 to 9 basically, and what we do is we make decisions on what mechanisms do we need on the robot, what’s the best strategy,” said Allison Wisnewski, MORT senior.

Wisnewski is the first female technical lead for the team in the school’s history. She says they use 3D printing, programming, even CNC manufacturing in the school’s labs to bring their robots to life. The final product was already shipped to the competition, but they’re tweaking a few extra components.

The team leaves Tuesday for the national tournament in St. Louis where they’ll compete with thousands of other high school students and see whose robot has what it takes to win the title.

“When you go to a sporting game, you’re cheering on people. But when you go to a robotics tournament, you’re cheering on robots. And it’s kind of crazy but you’re treating the robot as a human and it’s something you built so to watch it succeed is a feeling like no other,” said MORT Senior Roopa Badapati.

Competing at the national level has become the norm for the technology rich high school. They’ve already got several regional titles under their belt. They’re the first with two teams competing from one school. All the high level math and science concepts, that was the easy part.

“Because of this program, I’ve gotten more confident. Been able to talk to judges and other teams without being so nervous or panicking about it,” said Jennifer Nguin, MORT freshman.

“Being able to brainstorm and as a team come up with a strategy and a design for a robot and how you want to approach each of the competitions has really been lessons that are going to be very helpful not only in high school and college, but in the workplace,” said Mount Olive High School Principal Kevin Stansberry.

Students return from the competition April 30 with their teammates and hopefully a first place trophy to boot.