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Robotics team competes at regionals

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 April 2014 at 12:00 am

4-H’ers finish third year of building a robot with skills

Provided photos – The Orleans County 4-H Robotics Team poses for a photo at the regional competition last week at the Rochester Institute of Technology. The group includes, front row, from left: Liz Meyer, Hayden Allis and Kelsey Evoy. Back row: Michael Reese, Mack Lamirand, Marlene Seielstad, Morgan Seielstad, Brad Lamirand, Don Allis, Trevor Scott-Avery, Sam Reese, Jairus Martin, John Redshaw, Andrea Schwartz, Alyssa Shortridge, and Erik Seielstad. Team member Ben Miller and Nick Ettinger are missing from photo.

ALBION – A team may be called Joe’s Average Slackers, but the group of high schoolers from Albion and Medina is hardly lacking in determination.

For the third straight year, Orleans County fielded a robotics team through its 4-H program. The team competed in a regional competition last Thursday through Saturday at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The Orleans students built a robot and programmed it to perform tasks – grabbing and shooting a big ball, and also playing defense against others teams.

The team named its robot,“Animal,” and it scores during the competition.

The Orleans team lost several close matches and didn’t come home with a trophy at the RIT competition that included 49 teams.

“It isn’t just about winning,” said Erik Seielstad, one of the mentor’s for the program. “It goes beyond the robots and winning. There’s an opportunity to interact with kids.”

The 12-member team started meeting in January, brainstorming the design for its robot. It met at RS Automations in Albion. The company is one of many supporters for the program, which requires about $25,000 annually in sponsor support to pay for the robot, equipment and entry fees.

Some of the other main sponsors are Baxter Healthcare in Medina, Xerox in Rochester, the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Orleans County, Stanton Signs in Medina, Takeform in Medina, and the 4-H Youth Development program.

Some of the drive team members wait for their cue to take the field for an upcoming match.

The Orleans team competes in FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology). There aren’t many robotics teams from rural areas. Marlene Seielstad, Erik’s wife and one of the mentors, praised the community support for the program.

“It’s worth every penny for what the kids get out of it,” she said. “When we were done the kids were so positive and they all had smiles. That’s the kind of team you want.”

The Orleans team gave Congressman Chris Collins a tour of their setup at RIT on Friday. Kelsey Evoy and Liz Meyer explained how they built the robot and the rules of the game to the congressman, who has a background in engineering.

The teams at RIT came from all over New York, with others teams from Pennsylvania, Florida and Canada.

Three teams advanced to a competition in St. Louis. Those teams include the Lockport Warlocks, Newfane Circuit Stompers and Clifton Park Rocketeers.

The team from Orleans County, No. 4093, plays defense during the competition.

Joe’s Average Slackers and the Orleans 4-H will host a 6:30 p.m. informational meeting on May 7 at the Cooperative Extension’s Education Center in Knowlesville.

The Seielstads said more team members will be needed next year because half of this year’s group will be graduating. For more information, e-mail the Seielstads at robotics@wiksclan.com.