Robotics team competes at regionals
4-H’ers finish third year of building a robot with skills
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 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.
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.
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 email@example.com.