The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

December 19, 2013

Precision Machining seniors preparing for robotics competition

For the Star Beacon

JEFFERSON — Technology is a big part of the focus at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus. Using the most cutting-edge technology available, A-Tech students are being prepared to continue their education or begin their careers after graduating. One way instructors prepare students is through projects that not only pass along the knowledge it will take to be successful, but also make learning fun and interesting.

A-Tech’s Precision Machining program is working on a very interesting project. The senior class, with the help of their instructor Ron Maurer, has taken on the task of building a robot to compete in the National Robotics League (NRL). The main goal of the NRL competition is to be the “last robot standing” in a competition where two robots battle head to head in a three-minute match to destroy the other team’s robot.

Mr. Maurer found out about the National Robotics League in 2009 while on a business trip in Chicago. One of the presenters he came across was promoting the competition, and he was very interested to see if this project could be used in the classroom. After teaching the program for A-Tech for three years, Mr. Maurer contacted the National Robotics League and entered his Senior Precision Machining class in the competition.

The students and their robot must follow very specific rules so that the competition is fair and safe for all involved. One of the details the students must pay close attention to is the robot itself. It can be no wider than 3 feet, and if the robot has any type of wheel or track it cannot exceed 15 pounds. If the robot does not have wheels (for example, a hovercraft) the maximum weight is 20 pounds. The robots built for NRL are allowed to conceal weapons to assist the robot on a successful win but there are rules as to what weapons they can use as well. Some rules are put in place to provide fair competition, such as the robots are not allowed to have any devices that interfere with battery or operating systems of other robots. This rule ensures that each competitor has at least the opportunity to compete. Other rules are for the safety of the students and spectators such as a ban on flammable materials or liquids that could spill out during the battle.

In addition to teaching machining techniques during the process of building the robot, Mr. Maurer is also involving the community with this project. The class has 10 local business sponsors, some of whom visit the lab on Wednesdays. These business leaders share some of their expertise with the students and at the same time the students are able to network with potential future employers.

A-Tech’s Precision Machining program is the first school in Ashtabula County to be a part of this national program and they will be competing at Lakeland Community College at the regional competition on April 26, 2014. If they are successful, they can continue competing at larger events and possibly even at the national level. Good luck to all of the Precision Machining seniors!