Gearing up

Robotics club uses STEM technology, heads to competition


Olouwatobi Noukpozounkou

As part of the school’s robotics club, freshman Kevin Ruiz-Gallardo flies a Mavic HS107 drone through the west hallway after school. Ruiz-Gallardo will participate in the CREATE Whirl Wind Drone Competition which will be hosted at the school on Dec. 21.

Olouwatobi Noukpozounkou and

Manipulating others is something most people frown upon, but for science teacher Royonna Bristol and freshman Kevin Ruiz-Gallardo, it brings excitement.

The two are the sole members of the school’s robotics club and have been working on manipulating technology in the form of robotics for the last few months in preparation for tomorrow’s VEX Robotics Tower Takeover competition at Omaha North High School.

“Cunningham approached me and was saying would you be interested in helping kids learn about robotics and get our robotics program started,” Bristol said. “I was like heck yeah, anytime I can get a chance to help kids with science and do hands on activities.”

Ruiz-Gallardo, with Bristol’s guidance, built a Clawbot that can move, push and pick up blocks. He has been practicing controlling it through manipulating coordinates and telling it what to do in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) lab located in room 128 A. There, he works to have the robot capable of putting the colorful blocks in the towers to score points.

“Controlling the machine is a bit tricky at first because of the programing and seeing what mode you like best, but once you get it to how you want, it’s much easier,” Ruiz-Gallardo said.

STEM programs group Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines together to improve competitiveness in science and technology development. The idea has been embraced by most school systems to help students grow in their technological skills, so that they would be able to manage in a hi-tech future.

During the competition, he will have to compete against other students who all have the chance to win awards such as the Excellence Award, Judges Award and the Tournament Champion Award. If he wins, he will have the option and opportunity to compete nationally against other the winners.

“There’s a lot of schools, so it’d be nice to see the other students’ modifications,” Bristol said. “That’d be impressing to see how creative it is…My expectation is to see creativity and innovation.”

Robotics is not anything new to Ruiz-Gallardo, as he has been involved in various robotics clubs since seventh grade. He hopes his experience will come in handy at the competition.

“I have a lot of experience,” he said. “I learned to lift up the blocks and stack six blocks, side by side on the corners of the field.”
After the VEX Robotics Tower Takeover Competition he will have seven days to switch gears and prepare for the school’s own 2019-2020 CREATE Drone challenge: Whirlwind, which will be held on Dec. 21.

For the drone competition, CREATE will give each team a drone and they will then be able to modify in in order to be able to maneuver through the indoor obstacle course faster than they would have if they had not modified it. The point of the competition is to finish the course as quick as possible and then land on the landing pad.

The competition will start at 8 a.m. and will last until around 4 p.m. It will be free for spectators to come watch the competition.

“We are so excited that it’s at Bryan, and that it’s the first drone tournament in Nebraska,” science and math Curriculum Specialist Elisa Booth said. “It’s just awesome to get the exposure and get our kids [involved] so they can see what’s going on and see how this is growing.”

At the competition the teams will be called for races like head to head, course runs, and races with four or five teams going at a time.
While Ruiz-Gallardo is the only student member of the robotics club, Bristol would like to expand the number of students involved in the organization. They meet weekly and any student is welcome to join.

“My plan is to get girls [to join],” Bristol said. “Some don’t do things out of fear of what it takes for them to do it, or they think that they have to really love science to be in robotics, when you really don’t. I mean, all people should be involved, and you’re learning skills just by participating, there’s so many things you’re learning that will help you.”