Clovis students’ robot takes third in competition

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Clovis High junior Rosstin Ahmadian, with the GEAR UP program, watches Tuesday as the class robot picks up a beach ball, one of many tasks the robot can perform.

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

Though making their first trip to the annual Boosting Engineering Science and Technology competition in Las Cruces over the weekend, a fairly novice team from Clovis High knew they had a good product: a robot.

Having been shipped the material to make their robot five weeks before, members of the GEAR UP program at the high school put the machine together and then put it through its paces. The robot eventually could move forward and back in order to pick up objects with its giant claw.

What the CHS contingent didn’t count on was the machine falling apart in the fourth heat of the event held at New Mexico State University.

Thanks to some quick thinking, the Clovis students put the robot back together and claimed third place in the two main categories of competition. Out of 22 teams from around the state, Clovis grabbed trophies for third in both the BEST category and in the overall game category.

Another honor that went to the squad of 23 students was the Founder’s Award, though some thought they should’ve gotten more.

“We should’ve got the Blood, Sweat and Tears award,” said member Raphael Pacheco, pointing to the nicks and cuts suffered from the temporarily malfunctioning machine during a crucial moment of the competition.

“For our first year, I think we did very good getting third place overall, third in the game and first for coolest-looking robot,” said Rosstin Ahamadian, a junior at Clovis High. “In the fourth heat, our robot literally fell apart. It was really amazing how we all came together and rebuilt the robot from scratch — and went all the way to the finals with it.”

By virtue of its finish in Las Cruces, the CHS team will compete again — with the same robot — in an early-December regional competition in Denton, Texas.

Dan Summers, school coordinator for Clovis GEAR UP, or Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, is one of five local teachers assisting with the robotics program.

Summers said the same set of parts was provided to each team participating. That included PVC pipe, plywood, screws and electrical motors.

It also included what Clovis students called “the brain,” which took commands from a remote control unit.

Whether the finished product could move and function was up to the students. The robot was asked to pick up beach balls, cans of tomato paste and racquetballs and place them into small baskets for the competition.

“We slowly built up to this. First was the base with the wheels, then we put together more complex things like the arm and the claw,” said Brandon Tinder, a CHS junior. “It posed numerous amounts of problems for us. I can’t tell you how many times we changed the arm and the claw design.”