KDSS Kinetic Knights show what their robot can do
By Liz Dadson

Science & Technology/Education

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The prototype robot picks up an inner tube from KDSS Kinetic Knights team member Travis Shan

The Kincardine District Secondary School Kinetic Knights are gearing up for the first robotics regional competition in March and wanted to show the public what their robot can do.

To that end, they held an open house at the former Gym Bags fitness centre on Huron Terrace, Thursday evening, using a prototype of the actual robot to go through the paces.

Team 781 (Kinetic Knights) began working on the robot in January and spent six intense weeks building the machine and all its parts. It will be sealed and tagged tomorrow (Feb. 22) in anticipation of the Waterloo regional competition which is Saturday, March 26, at the University of Waterloo.

The team is also competing at the Toronto West regional on Saturday, April 2, at the Hershey Centre in Toronto; and the Buckeye regional on Saturday, April 9, in Cleveland, Ohio.

The robotics competitions are sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a non-profit organization that gives students of all ages the opportunity to learn about engineering and science by creating robots.

Kinetic Knights administration captain Janelle Taylor said the team has 10 great adult mentors who spent hours helping build the robot and teaching the students how to operate it.

"This year we had a much larger group," she said. "We doubled our numbers, to 38 students from 14 last year."

She said it may have helped that the fee was reduced. There is no fee charged to help build the robot. However, the cost per student this year is $200 to go to all three competitions ($50 for each one in Ontario, and $100 for the U.S. one). Last year, the fee was $350.

The team does a lot of fund-raising, as well, including the sale of New Orleans Pizza cards and Crabby Joe's appetizer cards, available through team members; and Boston Pizza restaurant receipts - 10 per cent of each receipt is donated to the Kinetic Knights.

The robotics team, formed in 2002, is well-known throughout Kincardine for its dedication to giving back to the community. It helped purchase a $10,000 mill for the KDSS machine shop room; has run FIRST Lego League tournaments for the past five years; raised more than $1,000 for Haiti; planted trees along Highway 21 to improve road conditions in the winter; and participated in, and volunteered at, the Terry Fox Run.

The team strives for excellence and has won numerous awards, including the following:

  • 2002 - Canadian Regional Champions
  • 2004 - Imagery Award
  • 2005 - Industrial Safety Award
  • 2008 - Gracious Professionalism Award
  • 2009 - Gracious Professionalism Award, Waterloo Regional Finalists, Team Spirit Award, Website Award
  • 2010 - Team Spirit Award, Industrial Safety Award, Website Award

Ultimately, the team's goal is to inspire students of all ages to gain an interest in science and technology, and to be role models in the community.

A good crowd turned out for the open house Thursday and some, including Bluewater District School Board trustee Jan Johnstone, even tried their hand at operating the robot, with a modicum of success.

The real robot, the one to be used for the competition, is exactly the same as the prototype, with a few minor modifications. The most notable is that there will be hockey sticks on the front.

This year's competition, "Logo-Motion," commemorates the 20th anniversary of FIRST, with a truly exciting game. In the first 15 seconds, the robot must autonomously place uber-tubes on the scoring grid. In the next two minutes, drivers must control the robot to place logo pieces on the scoring grid. And in the final 10 seconds, the robot must deploy a mini-bot to climb a 10-foot pole.


Sven Wehrmann (L) and Greg Poulsen of the robotics team operate the robot, while teammate Nikhil Deshpande watches


Anna Splettstoesser (L) operates the robot with help from robotics team members James Jackson and Sven Wehrmann


A prototype of the real robot is put through its paces at the open house


The robot places inner tubes on hooks which represent the scoring grid in the actual game


Bluewater District School Board trustee Jan Johnstone (C) gets some help from Kinetic Knights Sven Wehrmann (L) and James Jackson in operating the robot


Luke Splettstoesser of the Kinetic Knights grabs hold of the mini-bot after it scales the 10-foot pole

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Sunday, February 20, 2011