By Anna Skinner
As the bonus period bell rings at 2:27 p.m., the last cluster of Westfield High School Robotics Club students filter into Christian Horner’s science classroom. Immediately, they group at the back of the room where two advanced robots perch on the lab tables. The robots, which include a combine-like structure in the front, are programmed to move around, pick up beanbags, and put the bags in specific troughs.
The 10 members branch off into two groups; the first group starts adjusting the controls with one robot and the second group begins working on a specific program for the other robot. The program is created through a computer and then downloaded to the robots. Freshman Max O’Cull studies the program and adjusts the commands.
“Without the program, the robot wouldn’t work,” he said. “Basically, I write the program and that’s how the robots know what to do.”
However, without the help of the Westfield Education Foundation, the Robotics Club wouldn’t be able to accomplish what it does today. The foundation awards grants to teachers each year by raising money through its annual Dinner Dance and Silent Auction, the Underground Railroad Run, and other donations including the most recent being from the Westfield Lion’s Club and Ingersoll Rand Company. Through the foundation, Horner was the recipient of a $1,000 grant.
“There’s an application process with a questionnaire that you submit and Dr. (Stacy) McGuire has to approve of,” he explains.
Horner also describes two previous grants he has received: a Vernier Lab Quest program used for recording data for physics students and another for slow-motion cameras which are also used by the physics classes. After the teachers fill out the application, volunteer parents read though the anonymous submissions and grade them based on a rubric. The foundation’s board of directors reviews their results and makes the final award determination.
“Providing funds to educators supports their efforts to bring engaging, innovative projects to their classroom that would not be covered by the normal budgeting process,” says Foundation President Duane Lutz.
The grant not only allows students access to more materials to improve the robots with, it also gives the students some hands on experience before college in a fun, relaxed way.
“I want to be an engineer,” said senior member Skyler Doss. “I thought the Robotics Club could help prepare me with experience in building and programming.”
So far, the Robotics Club has participated in one competition and did well enough to advance to the finals.
“It [the robot] did well the first time, but there’s definitely room for improvement,” freshman Daniel Gaynor said as he assists in tweaking the programming of one of the robots.
The Robotics Club’s next competition will be held at 9:45 a.m. Saturday at Warren Central in Indianapolis.