Bald Eagle

BEA shows tech prowess at robotics tournament

Seniors Nick Carlson, Nick Pytel and Anthony Daniels set up and prepare to compete at the Greater DC Botball tournament.
Seniors Nick Carlson, Nick Pytel and Anthony Daniels set up and prepare to compete at the Greater DC Botball tournament. Photo provided

The Bald Eagle Area Tech Team put more than a month’s worth of engineering and math work to use at the Greater DC Botball Tournament at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., on Saturday.

They didn’t bring back any real gold, but did place fifth in the robotics competition that required teams to make Lego-created robot prospectors.

BEA was one of 30 teams that used robots to survey a replica of a geological site in the Southwest United States with a mission to identify and collect gold and gems in a makeshift mineral maze.

Each team was then awarded a point for every gold nugget removed by the robot from a mountain peak and every cubed mineral moved from the matching color tape.

BEA’s robots — Arnold T-130 and Jamal — were built from Legos attached to a motor and operated by a controller. The team was awarded Best Defensive Robot at the competition for Jamal.

The tech team was undefeated until the fourth round, with a loss to Hampton Township School District, of Allison Park.

“They worked extremely hard and were dedicated to the work they did,” computer lab monitor and BEA Tech Team adviser Sharon Nilson said.

“We couldn’t be more proud of what they accomplished. It shows that even in a rural school district, we can still compete with the best.”

However, it was the first time in nine years that the team didn’t place at least third. Three years ago, BEA took first place at Johns Hopkins University, Nilson said.

This year was the first time the team competed at the Washington D.C.-area regional competition instead of one held in Pittsburgh.

“We were facing a lot more teams than we have in the past, like ones from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology that specializes and masters projects like these,” Nilson said.

Nilson said preparation for the competition began in February with support from the district and a $7,500 grant from Best Buy that funded equipment and supplies to make the robots, training for Nilson and co-adviser Max Besong, and competition registration.

“We went through a teacher training at the University of Maryland and then debriefed with the kids, who came up with a model and plans,” Nilson said.

The team included seniors Nick Carlson, Anthony Daniels, Zach Lucas and Nick Pytel; sophomore Casey McClellan; and freshman Charlee Harris.

The team will present the robots April 28 during math night at Bald Eagle Area School District.