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Archive for Robotics

Guest Contributor: Kama Almasi

IMG_6778Saturday, April 25th marked the culmination of the largest-scale project I’ve done with a group of students. It was an utterly exhausting, exhilarating, and rewarding experience both for me and for the vast majority of my kids. I endured:

  • sleepless nights
  • frantic phone calls for help (by me to other people, not the reverse!)
  • frantic runs, mostly by my husband, to hardware and electronic stores to get materials and supplies I didn’t know I needed until I couldn’t find them
  • and even some tears, though thankfully not in front of the kids.

Despite all of this, I am already planning next year’s repeat performance!

What am I talking about? Why, the 2015 Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition in North Bend, of course. For those unfamiliar with this competition, MATE stands for Marine Advanced Technology Education, and ROV stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle (here is the URL for our Regional Center: http://oregon.marinetech2.org/ ). The annual competition poses scientific and engineering challenges for students, and this year the theme was ROVs in Extreme Environments: Science and Industry in the Arctic.

This project is not for the fainthearted, of which I was definitely one. When the Oregon Coast STEM Hub’s Ruth McDonald first suggested the project to me, my immediate internal reaction was “HAH! No way!” and my external reaction was “No, the middle schoolers studied the Physics standards last year, this year we need to cover other standards”. But a few months into the year, while still struggling with major behavior issues in my oversized classes, I finally relented. I was desperate for some way to improve the situation in my classroom, so I decided to dive in with all 90+ middle school science students, despite my extreme lack of knowledge of wiring and electronics. It still took me another few months before I actually started the project, but at least I knew it was on the horizon.

To be perfectly honest, the first two weeks of the project were torture. The classroom was utter chaos, I was grossly unprepared, KODAK Digital Still Cameraand I felt like a naïve, first-year teacher. But suddenly I realized during the third week that student engagement was far, far higher than it had been all year. Students walked into my room and immediately started working, even before the bell had rung! This was a miracle for my room. Students consulted with each other about how to wire, which wires were positive vs. negative, what a double-pull double-throw switch is, and what kinds of extensions to build onto their ROVs. They argued and argued, but it was all about design, engineering, and science! They also fell in love with my husband, whom they did not realize was my husband, as he was volunteering in the classroom nearly every day of the project. When he was absent they always noticed immediately: “Where’s my man, Rex?” I would hear, and “I NEED him!”

The run-off competition week finally arrived in Waldport. I had 16 teams; how on earth would I make sure they were all ready for competition and what would I do with them to whittle them down to the final two teams? Turns out I couldn’t make sure they were all ready — it was up to them. And in fact, many were not ready; that turned out to be part of the learning experience for them. It was a stressful but rewarding time; at the pool, students who were normally disengaged in academics were constantly troubleshooting problems and challenges. What a treat to witness this growth! And what a joy to call home and tell the winning teams that they were headed to Regionals.

KODAK Digital Still CameraLast Saturday’s Regional Competition was quite possibly the most challenging, yet rewarding day. My colleagues, Melissa Steinman, Holly Schell, and Daniel Wirick, and I took two middle school and two high school teams from Waldport to the competition in North Bend. We saw pride, disappointment, and learning experienced by our kids, while we all experienced the excitement of seeing the great talent and variety of the other teams. Reading the posters and seeing the ROVs was great fun, but the Place to Be was poolside. How to describe the satisfaction in watching small groups of teens so purely focused on their mission, eyes on the water, the only spoken words about the task at hand. Propeller falls off? All hands work together to fix it. Mission nearly accomplished? The entire team and the spectators wait in silence, with baited breath.

IMG_3310During the Awards Ceremony, although our four teams did not place, I found myself getting choked up with joy and excitement as one of the Toledo teams won the Navigator category, ensuring their ROV would be on display at the Oregon Coast Aquarium for the next 1 ½ years, and as one of the Taft 7-12 teams (freshmen!) won the Ranger category, earning a trip to the International MATE Competition in Newfoundland, Canada. The Waldport adults were all so exhausted that we thought the kids would fall asleep immediately on the bus trip home last night, but it was not to be. The entire trip was filled with excited kids talking about what happened that day, and what they want to do next year. We all cracked up as, near the end of the trip we heard one student say, “Is anyone besides me tired?”

I could never have pulled off this profound, rewarding experience without the help of many dedicated colleagues and friends, especially at the Oregon Coast STEM Hub. I was going to list them all here, but I think instead I’ll thank them personally and tell you this: Please, if you are hesitant to try something like this, if you feel inadequate or inexperienced, or faint of heart, just dive right in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, because you’ll need it, but do it. For your sake and your kids’ sake. I will just end by saying how grateful I am to my 90+ students who made me so happy to be their teacher. I needed that.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

Kama Almasi teaches Science at Crestview Heights and Waldport High School. She has a PhD in Ecology and has lived across the street from the Pacific Ocean off and on for 20 years. Kama is also a member of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub Steering Committee. She and her teaching partner brought two SCOUT class teams from Crestview Heights to the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition: Poseidon’s Pirates and Nerdz 4 Life.

under: Robotics

April 25th ROV Competition

Posted by: | April 24, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Oregon Competition Helps Students Learn about Polar Science and Technology with Underwater Robots
Winners head to Canada in June for international contest

April 23, 2015— The Oregon Coast Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Hub, in conjunction with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, has issued an icy challenge to Oregon students. On Saturday, April 25th, 38 teams of elementary, middle school, high school, and college students from across Oregon will compete in an underwater robotics competition in North Bend, Oregon that focuses on the use of these vehicles in scientific research and the offshore oil industry in the Arctic Ocean.

ROV2014-1An annual event, the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition encourages students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they develop underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVs – to complete missions that simulate real-world problems from the ocean workplace.

Established 4 years ago, the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition continues to expand in both team numbers and geographic area from which teams hail, with teams traveling from as far as Klamath Falls and Astoria to attend.

ROV2014-2The competition theme changes every year. This year’s contest highlights the role of ROVs in scientific research and the offshore oil industry in the extreme environment of the Arctic. Like scientists who work in polar conditions, students will pilot their ROVs under a simulated ice sheet where they will count and sample organisms, deploy scientific instruments, and collect iceberg data. They will also pilot their ROVs to complete tasks from the offshore oil industry, including inspecting pipelines and testing deep-sea oilfield equipment. In addition to their ROV missions, student teams must also create a poster and be interviewed by engineering judges.

The competition promotes the development of entrepreneurship and leadership skills by requiring students to organize themselves into a company structure with each student taking on a specific role. It transports students from the classroom into the business world, where the student-run, simulated companies design, manufacture, and market their student-built underwater robots. The process requires students to manage a project and budget, brainstorm innovative solutions, and work as a team – all important 21st century workforce skills.

ROV2014-4The Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition is supported by numerous partners and over 50 volunteers, who serve as divers, judges and support staff. This year’s competition is sponsored by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, which is a collaboration of over 50 coastal partners focused on providing world-class STEM opportunities for coastal teachers and their students. Additional support comes from the MATE Center, the Marine Technology Society, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), Oregon Sea Grant, the Sexton Corporation, Oregon State University, the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, and the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

The Oregon Regional Competition is one of 24 regional contests held around the world whose efforts are coordinated by the MATE Center. Top teams from the upper level divisions will earn the opportunity to compete in MATE’s 14th annual international ROV competition, which will be held June 25-27, 2015 at the Marine Institute of Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The public is invited to attend the competition and cheer for their local teams. The Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition will be held from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm on Saturday, April 25th at the North Bend Community Pool and North Bend High School. For more information, please contact the Oregon Coast STEM Hub at OregonCoastSTEM@oregonstate.edu.


under: Robotics

Bandon Robotics

Posted by: | March 30, 2015 | No Comment |

Guest Contributor: Martha Kemple

“It was clear that resources did not decide who won, because you had robots made out of entirely custom made parts competing with Frankenstein’s-monster-style robots, held together with duct-tape and crossed fingers, and they stay neck-and-neck for most of the tournament.”

– Max, Bandon H.S. junior and assistant team captain

FIRST Tech Competitions

Both of Bandon High’s Robotics Teams participated in the FIRST Tech Challenge Qualifying Tournament at OSU on Saturday, February 7.  During the morning, the students had to take their robot through three inspections: software, robot design, and field connections (making sure the robot and software were properly set up to connect to the tournament computer system). Teams also participated in two interviews: one a formal interview in a quiet room with a panel of judges who asked about how the robot was designed and built, driving, game strategy, the Engineering Notebook (each team had to put together a notebook describing their design processes), community service, outreach, and fund raising. The second interview was an informal one in the “pit” area–the room in which each team has a table to work on their robot, make any changes to the programming code, and hang out.

DSC_0015In the afternoon, the teams participated in 5 of 30 matches, and their scores were tallied.  Team 8124 was in first place at the end of 30 matches, and 9130 was in 11th place.  Team 8124 and the next top three teams each chose two teams for their “Alliances,” and then entered the elimination round.  Team 8124 chose the 4-H team from Sutherlin and the other Bandon team, 9130, as their Alliance.  They prevailed over the 4th place team in the elimination rounds, and proceeded to the championship!  Their Alliance came in second overall, thereby earning them the opportunity to compete at the FIRST Tech Challenge Super Qualifiers the weekend of February 21.

We traveled up to Hillsboro (that’s a LONG 5+ hour drive in a school bus—but I’m very glad I didn’t have to drive!) and participated in the competition there. The teams made improvements to their robots and code, and the robots performed better than they had at the Qualifying Tournament, but the competition was a lot stiffer. We had fun, though, and we gained lots of ideas that we can pull from for next year.

Bandon High School Robotics would like to thank the Oregon Coast STEM Hub for paying for the food for our two FTC Tournament trips.

Robotics Class at Bandon High School

DSC_0030The Robotics class is in its second year at Bandon High School. During the fall term, students spend some time learning RobotC, and then design, build, and program robots with the goal of competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge.  During the spring, after the FTC competition season has ended, the class switches gears towards underwater robotics, and works to develop a submersible ROV (an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle) with the goal of participating in the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition, which this year will be held on April 25 at the North Bend Community Pool.

Each of these competitions has a specific list of criteria for the robot and the tasks it must perform, so the students design and build their robots with those goals in mind.  This class is very hands on and really focuses on teamwork, as students are working on a variety of different things in order to get the robot to work. Some may be programming, some may be keeping track of details and making sure everyone knows the competition rules, some may be designing and building the robot, and some may be building the different items needed for the robot to practice the skills required for the tournament.

What Do the Students Think?

The FTC is a lot of fun because it celebrates creative problem solving. This year we had the pleasure of going to sub-state qualifiers, and the thing I enjoyed most is seeing how different everyone’s robot was from each other.

                  Our own robot was very simple compared to so many other robots, yet it took us through our first tournament because it was decently built around a good idea. There are so many different ways to score, no two robots will ever focus on the same thing, so every team you partner with brings new ideas to the table, and you have something to strive toward for next year.

                  I enjoy participating in the FTC because it centers heavily around creativity and teamwork, and everyone’s ideas are represented, showing how we all think differently while also showing everyone has something to contribute.

– Max, Bandon H.S. junior and assistant team captain

My experience on the trips to compete at the FTC competition was very rewarding, because not only did I get to compete the FTC qualifiers and the super qualifiers with my fellow team mates in a very creative ways. I got to go to the OSU wave lab, and not only that but the OSU robotics club showed us the many ways robots can be used. This opened up many new areas of careers and innovating ways to build robots. This makes the path to approaching my future not only more bright but fun and exciting.

– John, Bandon H.S. junior and lead builder

This was my first year in robotics, and I really enjoyed it. The competition was great. I had a lot of fun driving the robot. I also had a lot of fun keeping log of what we did every day. The FTC experience was extensively different then all the other classes I have been in. The FTC robotics class was much more free-form and based on the goals of the student. In the robotics class the speed is geared on the student. The faster the student goes the more the robot advances and grows.

                  The FTC experience was great and I enjoyed every second of it. Whether I was driving, keeping logs of daily activity, or trying not to pull my hair out I was always having fun.  

– Jack, Bandon H.S. sophomore in charge of engineering notebook




Martha Kemple teaches Robotics, Computer Applications, and Digital Photography at Bandon High School, and is Advisor for the Yearbook and the Robotics teams participating in FIRST Tech Challenge and the MATE ROV Competition.  She has a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Portland State University and worked for the Bonneville Power Administration in various computer-related positions before earning a Master of Arts in Teaching from George Fox University. She has taught everything from second grade through college students.

Ms. Kemple will be bringing two teams to the Oregon Regional MATE ROV Competition in April.  Team “West Coast Robotics, Inc.” will compete in the SCOUT class, and “Wieland’s Shipyard” will compete in the NAVIGATOR class.

under: Robotics

Seaside Robotics

Posted by: | March 3, 2015 | No Comment |

img_2496The Daily Astorian reports that a robot built by 25 high school students on Seaside High School’s CYBORG Seagulls robotics team is ready to compete at the FIRST Robotics divisional qualifier.  Seaside High School technology teacher Mike Brown is the faculty advisor to the team.

What motivates the students?  Opportunity for hands-on learning:

“[O]ne of the things that I love about this program, is that instead of doing 30 more problems out of a math book, I can apply what I actually learned in math,” team captain and Seaside senior Austin Milliren said…

Some may end up pursuing STEM careers, but all are becoming STEM-literate citizens:

The team includes several students interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) majors. But it also includes students like Seaside senior Coral McNeill, who wants to be an English teacher but said she was recruited by Brown and finds building robots enjoyable.

Read the entire Feb 24 article here: http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20150224/cyborg-seagulls-are-ready-to-recycle

Or find a PDF of the article on the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website’s Hub Happenings page

For more information about the team, check out their website: www.team3673.org


under: Robotics

Guest Contributor:  Noah Lambie

Taft Tech showed up to OSU’s Kelley Engineering center on Sunday, February 8th in anticipation of their first ever FTC High School Robotics Qualifying Tournament. Facing experienced robot teams from all over the region, the Taft high school team was tired from their early morning drive from Lincoln City, but they unloaded their robot, handed over their engineering notebook, and prepared for the inspection. Little did they know the adventure that awaited them.

Progressive JPEGThings started off well. The team breezed through the robot inspection. But the next phase was the software inspection, and it turned out we were missing a ‘Samantha’ module and two necessary programs on the NXT robot brain. The software programs were called ‘Santosan’, and ‘Program Chooser’. It turned out we were one of two teams using Labview software for programming. The other 22 teams used ‘RobotC’. The two necessary programs were absent from our Labview software, so the students bravely set forth to find these files somewhere, and load them on their robot.

It took them about two hours, but they finally located the correct programs and loaded them on the NXT brain. The final missing piece, the Samantha module, was donated to Taft from another team. Hopeful, Taft Tech headed out to the practice arena for another inspection.  They passed, but when they moved the robot to the practice arena for the field test, it failed to connect to the Wi-Fi operating the controllers. So Taft Tech returned to the pit, set back but determined to work on their robot.

With the help of another team, Taft Tech was able to convert their NXT brain programming to the more common ‘RobotC’ programming.   This was no easy task, and in fact involved programming and transferring as the team was walking up to their first appearance in the arena. Just as they disconnected the USB, Taft Tech placed their robot on the ramp for the first round.

Despite being completely worn out from the early morning drive and the busy, stressful morning antics, Taft Tech represented well in their 5 rounds, winning two rounds (in each round 2 teams ally against 2 others), and finishing 18th. The field of robots was really quite spectacular, with conveyor belts, sweeping devices, extensions, gears, and sophisticated sensors. After the event, Taft was tired… and inspired.  Eneki Trujillo explained, “Many hoops were jumped through”, to which Hunter Bishop added, “at a very fast pace”. Hunter went on to say that “The experience was amazing, especially to go to OSU to compete”. “And to see OSU’s Mars Rover,” Eneki added.

FTC stands for First Tech Challenge, and is the step between FIRST Lego League Robotics (Elementary and Middle School) and First Robotics Competition (for grades 9-12 with large robots and complex missions). The theme for this year’s FTC season was ‘Cascade Effect’, and the arena, a square 12’ x 12’, had a bin of whiffle balls held in an elevated tub in the center. The goal of each robot is to release the balls from the bin, and then load the balls into large vertical plastic tubes. Points can also be earned by ending inside designated areas, and for placing the plastic tubes in particular places.

The Taft Tech team emerged from students in Noah Lambie’s Advanced Robotics class at Taft, who decided to take this mission on, and worked on it every day for a few months. They ended up building a robot with an elevating arm and pinching claw, which could pick up one of the whiffle balls, and elevate it to drop into the plastic tubes. They also had to program software that moved the robot during the autonomous period, and allowed them to wirelessly control the robot during the rest of the 2:30 time period. Taft Tech found many avenues for support. Taft High bought the team the Tetrix base kit, which provided the aluminum building pieces. The Oregon Coast Stem Hub provided funds for travel, food, and Bluetooth devices. The team also fundraised at a home basketball game with a paper airplane contest, and allowed those interested to test the robot for themselves.

Watch a short video of Taft Tech and their robot in action!


Noah Lambie teaches Physics, Art, and Engineering classes at Taft High 7-12 and coaches the Taft Tech FTC team. He is also a Mentor Teacher with the Oregon Coast STEM Hub.

under: Robotics

Student FLL Robotics Team

Posted by: | January 26, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Guest Contributor:  Cari Jenkins

Coastal team "SNL" competes at the FLL Championship Tournament

Coastal team “SNL” competes at the FLL Championship Tournament

On January 17- 18, 2015, 117 First Lego League (FLL) teams from around the state gathered at Liberty High School in Hillsboro for Oregon’s 14th annual Intel FLL State Championship Tournament. They had been chosen out of 460 Oregon FLL teams (over 3,300 students age 9-14) who had competed in regional tournaments held in December 2014. The top 25% competed in the Championship Tournaments. Newport’s SNL-Super Ninja Legends competed in McMinnville in December and was one of the lucky teams chosen to compete in the championship meet with eight team members ranging from 4th to 8th grade.

SNL team members learn how to properly handle a kayak paddle

SNL team members learn how to properly handle a kayak paddle

The team has been meeting at least weekly since September to complete this year’s FLL Challenge – World Class Learning Unleashed. Team members had to research and develop an innovative solution to improving learning and education. SNL chose to research kayaking, and designed the Paddler’s Box Pro, which helps individuals new to kayaking keep the right form while paddling. Team members were able to take the US Coast Guard Paddle Boating class thanks to instructor Tom Murphy, where they learned about the issues of paddling and Tom’s paddle box approach. On top of the challenge research, the team also used a LEGO robotics kit to design, build and program a robot, which completes as many missions as possible on a 4-foot by 8-foot playing field.

SNL present their design

SNL present their design

As part of the tournament the team was required to present their robot and programs for judging, present their Paddler’s Box Pro to another team of judges explaining why they chose to design the Paddler’s box Pro, show their teamwork skills to yet another team of judges using the FLL Core Values, and then compete with their robot in three different competition rounds.

Members of Lincoln County 4-H SNL robotics team

Members of Lincoln County 4-H SNL robotics team

The SNL team was sponsored by Lincoln County 4-H and HC etc., Inc.  Team members include Trent Kinion, Isaac Kinion, Reegan Jenkins, Katie Hartsell, Daisy O’Hearn, Max Kinion, Marcus Lehrer, and Kaden Raever.




Cari Jenkins is a coach for the Lincoln County 4-H SNL-Super Ninja Legends Robotics TeamFirst Lego League Robotics is one of several STEM student activities supported by 4-H Youth Development in Lincoln County.  Contact your coastal county OSU Extension office to find out more about STEM learning opportunities for youth in your area.  4-H is a partner in the Oregon Coast STEM Hub through OSU Precollege Programs.

under: Robotics

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