By Ed Byrne
The Brillion News
WRIGHTSTOWN – They say the old rectory at St. Paul Catholic Church in Wrightstown is haunted.
After all, no one has lived there for about 10 years, so ghosts can come and go as they please.
But on the second floor, there are no ghosts – only robots.
It’s the home to the St. Clare Catholic School Robotics Team, and the upstairs bedrooms have been turned into two shops and a field for Vex robots.
If you think a bunch of middle school kids wouldn’t have a ghost of a chance of going somewhere in the world of robotics, think again.
The St. Clare team did well at the state Vex championships and qualified for the Vex World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky, on April 20-23.
Eighth grader Mason Hendricks is the team spokesman and confesses to getting hooked on robotics.
“It just looked interesting and it’s a lot of fun,” Hendricks said. “Working on the robot and going to competitions you meet a ton of other people.”
He said the mechanical part of robotics is a plus.
He started when he was in fourth grade and the interest remains strong.
Vex robotics is considered a serious step up from the Lego robotics program.
Each year, Vex stages local, state and world competitions that are designed to challenge participants.
There is a goal that the participating teams have to address by building a robot that’s designed to get it done efficiently. The robots have to be programmed as well, so computer programming skills are essential.
“You have to pick up big foam stress balls and shoot them into a basket,” Hendricks said.
The kids designed a robot that has a gun based on the same principle as a baseball or softball pitching machine.
The robot includes an intake port that swallows up the ball, takes it up a conveyor to the launcher, and then shoots it toward a target basket.
There are two target baskets – the higher one gives you more points.
“Most of the other teams can’t shoot into the high goals,” Connor Kohlman said. “They have to shoot into the lower goal.”
The St. Clare team went to two competitions this year: an invitational at Fox Valley Lutheran (FVL) High School and the state tournament at Oconomowoc.
After the tournament at FVL, the St. Clare team made some big improvements to its robot.
“We re-did the entire pickup system of how we pick up the ball and get it to the shooter,” Kohlman said. “It is totally different. Now we’re re-doing the shooter, adding more motors to make it more powerful.”
Please see the complete story in the March 17, 2016 edition of The Brillion News.