High School Students Build Autonomous Robot Forklift

Photo via Pittsburgh FIRST Robotics Competition

Look out, Google, Apple and Microsoft. The students from Career Magnet High School in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, are about to give you a run for your money.

A team of 25 high school students from the Pittsburgh area’s school for smart kids surprised the judges, their parents, and possibly themselves by creating a robotic forklift that could perform its job without any human guidance whatsoever.

A Self-Guided Robot

After working on the project for six weeks, the team of future world leaders entered their robot forklift in the first-ever Greater Pittsburg Regional Robotics Competition. And while they didn’t win the top prize, they did win the admiration of many of the people who attended the event, which was held last month at the Convocation Center of California University of Pennsylvania.

Matthew Seaman is an 11th grade student at the school. He said the team was able to exceed even its own expectations by breaking down the bigger goal into more achievable smaller jobs.

“We have a team working on mechanical, we have a team working on programming, we have a team working on electrical,” Seaman told the website Your4State. “And we came together and we put it all into one project.”

Intricate Technology

The team’s 120 lb. robot, which features the head of the school’s Trojan mascot, can lift totes and recycling bins entirely on its own. The team used 3-D printers to build some of its parts wrote complex computer code to guide its movements.

“I think we did really well this year,” said Ruth Felix, another 11th grader who was on the robot forklift’s development team. “I liked our teamwork and our organization a lot better. We did build and design a really good robot.”

The team’s creation wasn’t just something they patched together out of an Erector Set, said Seaman. It was actually quite sophisticated.

“We also had to program multiple things, like an autonomous period where the robot has to work completely by itself,” he said.

Even the Teachers Were Impressed

Raymond Setaro teaches tech education at the school. He said that in participating in this project, the team members learned more than just how to build a better machine.

“There is more to it than just a robot,” Setaro said. “There are many facets that students can take from this, some of them being business administration, marketing, design and engineering.”

He said the school’s previous teams have built robots that could throw a frisbee and toss those oversized balls used in aerobics classes. But this was the first time he has seen kids from his school do anything this complex.

Tamera Stouffer, a spokesman for the Chambersburg Area School District, credited the students for thinking creatively. She said they would have gone farther in the competition had it not been for a technical glitch.

“They had trouble with a cable,” Stouffer said.


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