DMS robotics finishes second, advances to regionals

Coming in second place may not be the outcome this class of students were looking for, but it is quite a bit better than they expected.

Ashley Brock’s robotics class at Demopolis Middle School took the runner-up position to Tuscaloosa Academy at the recent BEST competition held at Shelton State Community College.

The local team was among some 25 who vied for honors and came away with a long list of awards, including the best rookie team.

Competition hasn’t ended. On December 7 the team, teacher Ashley Brock, mentors and family members will travel to Auburn for the regional competition, this time against some 55 other teams from seven states.

The optimistic students believe they have a good chance. After all, if it hadn’t been for a pesky broken pulley they would have come out on top of the local competition.

The best part of the event, said Jordan Durrett, was “staying in first place the whole entire time,” until the pulley broke.

So now the team is repairing and reworking the robot for the next step.

Those who worked on the robot the most and knew its limitations were chosen to be the drivers and spotters for the actual competition.

Everyone in the class had a role in how well the class performed.

Madelyn Brooker and Shaelin Jones took meticulous notes and documented every step that went into creating the robot for the engineering notebook. Their work paid off with a first place finish. The notebook had to be turned in a week before competition.

Work wasn’t over after then, however. The two girls continued to work on the notebook for regionals, and it already has been sent in for review by the judges.

Thanks to Jarvis Rowser’s creativity, the tiger-striped robot took first place as the Most Photogenic Robot.

With the help of Vickie Thorne, another DMS teacher, Andy Hoggle and Taylor Conley created a web page for the team and took second place. They are continuing to update it.

Members of the class created display booth to show the team’s work to spectators. Rod Johnson said the walk-in entry took third place. In addition to photos and other eye-catching displays, the team handed out pamphets.

One area the team will be working on is marketing. Malik Moore said they had to prepare a Power Point presentation for the judges who asked many questions when it was completed. The group reviewed the trial-and-error process of building a robot and why theirs should be the robot to buy.

While Malik said that engineering isn’t a field he is drawn to, he discovered that “I like to talk” in front of a group of people.

“I don’t think we realized how intense the competition would be,” said Brock. There was as much cheering for teams as there is at any athletic competition, she said. The students put in a lot of evening and weekend hours during the six weeks they had to prepare.

Students found time to talk with members of other teams and swap ideas, but Jordan said he had a conversation with an adult sponsor that really made him proud.

A gentleman from Mercedes-Benz told Jordan that the DMS entry was the best industrial designed robot he had seen and would like to see a version of it in a factory.

Brock said she hopes that some of the members of her class of eighth-graders would return to work on a team to compete next fall.

“I hope to retain a few and would like to invite them back,” she said.

Every student in the class raised a hand when asked if they want to return.

Other members of the robotics team include Walt Ezell, Santrena Fair, Sean Frankowski, James Jones, Logan Principe, Ben Robertson, Jamaal Thurmond and Erin White.

Special thanks goes to the five team member, said Brock. They are Chris Stewart, James Lee, Johnathan Parrish and Thomas Langham of Georgia Pacific and Sheri Jones of the Alabama Technology Network.

The team also won the following:

First Place: Founders Award for Creative Design; Most Robust Robot

Second Place: Most Elegant Robot, Best Spirit and Sportsmanship

Fourth Place: Robotics