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Carrollwood News

Homeschooled Trinity students form competitive robotics club


Published:   |   Updated: October 9, 2013 at 02:20 PM

LUTZ — They don’t have quite the personalities or mystique of Robot B9 from “Lost in Space,” R2-D2 from “Star Wars” or Hal from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” but their robots have a more earthly get-up-and-go attitude.

Roaming around manmade extraterrestrial landscapes, robots designed, built and programmed by four Trinity Homeschool Academy students are wheeling their way from the classroom to state and national prominence.

Over the past summer, Braeden Adams, 12, and Ross Edwards, R. J. Walters and Sean Carr, all 14, turned an office room off U.S. 41 into a faraway planet with a roaming robot. The project was part of the Trinity Dragons Robotics Club international competitive project, which has put the small school at 11209 Casey Road, at Oakwood Community Church, on the international technology education forefront.

To compete in the contest, the students submitted a two-minute, self-produced video based on the 2013 movie “After Earth,” featuring a robot kit from VEX Robotics, which supplies robot-building kits for schools and clubs. The movie was shot using an HD camcorder supplied by the XPrize Foundation in Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that designs and manages public technology competitions. Their entry was submitted in April.

The club is now awaiting the results of that competition, which should be announced soon.

Meanwhile, the Dragons are looking for financial donations to help fund international robotics competitions. The base kit, registration fee and materials to start the club were about $800, said Robotics Coach Raymond Carr.

Carr, owner and president of Occam Medical Design — a Lutz-based embedded control design company — said the team competed in January in Brandon and at Tampa Preparatory School in February, where it qualified for the finals. The next event will be Nov. 16 in Leesburg.

At these competitions, teams build and program a robot to complete a task. On a 12-foot square field, two “alliances,” one red and one blue, compete in matches. The alliances are comprised of two teams each. Each match consists of a 20-second autonomous period followed by 2 minutes of driver-controlled play. The goal is to get a higher score than the opponent alliance by accruing points according to the game elements, such as picking up objects or maneuvering around obstacles, laid out in that year’s rules.

“It’s a lot about teamwork with everyone else. You end up with different partners. It encompasses mechanical engineering, programming, electrical engineering and strategy,” said Carr, who holds a master’s degree in computer engineering from the University of South Florida.

Trinity Co-Director Tonya Walters said the robotics team has made technology-based academics fun for students. She said students gain confidence and self-esteem when they see their efforts pay off in competition.

“It gives them confidence and makes leaders out of them. It shows them they can accomplish things that will give them more opportunities in their futures because they’re learning specific skills,” she said.

As the robotics team members held a “practice” at Carr’s home, Sean Carr placed their robot, “The Sucky-Uppy Doohickey (SUD),” onto the play area. He said the club has given him insight into what he’d like to do in the future, while offering him scholastic entertainment now.

“It’s much better than just sitting around and watching TV or videogames; I can just sit here for hours doing this,” he said.

VEX Robotics, Inc., which coordinates competitions, contracts the nonprofit Robotics Education and Competition Foundation to organize and operate the VEX Robotics Competition. In the 2011-2012 season, there were 4,500 registered VEX Robotics Competition Teams and more than 300 events, according to the VEX website.

For information or to donate to the team, email trinitymanager@gmail.com.

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