4-H robotics team has strong showing at RIT

Photos courtesy of Erik Seielstad: The 4-H robotics team includes, front row, from left: Lance Moyer of Albion, Dan Squire Jr. of Medina, Jace Conn of Albion and Zach Neal of Albion. Second row: Jody Neal (mentor), Jacob Draper of Medina, Erik Seielstad (mentor), Jason Foote (mentor), Eric Conn (mentor), Isaac Becker of Lyndonville, Jayden Neal of Albion, Jack Finley of Albion and Jacob Foote of Albion. 

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 March 2019 at 11:10 am

ROCHESTER – The 4-H robotics team competed on Friday and Saturday with 50 teams in the Finger Lakes Regional competition at Rochester Institute of Technology. The Orleans County team finished with a 5-5 record and was ranked 26th overall. The team was 13th for its offensive points.

The five wins is the most since the team started competing in 2012, and the 13th ranking in offense also set a new record for the team.

Jody Neal, one of the mentors/coaches, said the team is pleased with the results.

“The kids are fired up and they want to do it year-round,” Neal said today.

The Orleans team nearly made it to the final round. It was a backup if one of the teams had to bow out.

Some members of the 4-H robotics team get their robot ready for competition on Saturday at Rochester Institute of Technology. From left include Jayden Neal, Jack Finley, coach/mentor Jody Neal, Lance Moyer and Jace Conn.

The team needed to build a robot, program it, and design attachments that could pick up balls and disks. They had to cut metal, run wires and program electronics for the robot. They did a lot of trial and error to build a robot that could accomplish the tasks. They used BCA Ag Technologies on Route 31A as a base of their operations.

This is the eighth year the 4-H’ers from Orleans County are competing in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). There aren’t many robotics teams from rural areas.

They started building their robot in January when they opened a box with a pile of parts. They robot was built and programmed to go to specific spots on a space about the size of a basketball court. The robot moved forward and backward, sideways and diagonally.

The robot for the Orleans County 4-H team, number 4093, picks up a ball during a match at RIT.

The teams were given about six weeks to build the robot. On Feb. 19, all of the teams have to stop work with the robot not used again until the competition.

This year the theme is “Destination Deep Space,” in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing on July 20, 1969. The course for the FIRST challenge included replicas of cargo ships and rockets, and the robots needed to complete challenges with those elements.

The Orleans team is unusual because it isn’t connected to a school district. Most of the programs are through school districts, with paid staff leading the teams. The Orleans team has members from at least three different school districts,  as well as home-schooled students. The team is led by volunteers.

Jack Finley makes an adjustment on the robot during the competition at RIT.

It costs about $15,000 to run the program – to buy the robot and pay the competition entry fees. Xerox in Rochester and Baxter Healthcare in Medina have been the main sponsors for the program.

Jody Neal said the team wants to do more community demonstrations this year with the robot, and will try to expand its fundraising and sponsorships.

All of the teams have names, and the Orleans team is known as “Hardwired.” It competes under the number, 4093.

Lance Moyer, front, and Dan Squires lead the robot to the the next match at RIT.

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