Bronco Robotics team enters second year of competition

What began in Zachary as a small robotics club a couple of years ago has turned into a competitive team that is transforming today’s students into tomorrow’s workforce. Zachary High School’s Bronco Robotics team finished strong in the 2017 competition season, taking home an award for the top-seeded rookie team at the FIRST Bayou Regional tournament in the spring and participating in other local events throughout the summer, and the team has a new confidence entering their second year, according to Head Coach Lisa Williams
The FIRST Robotics Competition held a kickoff day nationwide in January, and Bronco Robotics, along with all other competing teams, receive d their competition assignment via a short animation. The team will then have six weeks – referred to as “Build Season” – to design and build a robot that satisfies the assigned function.
Parent volunteer Melissa Esnault explained, “These robots have to perform specific tasks in the competition like delivering a gear. So, we have to figure out how to do that. How do you pick up this gear, or how do you catch it? How do you deliver it to the place it needs to go? A lot of it is trial and error.”

The 2016-2017 robot and competition was sponsored by NASA and Entergy.

The 2016-2017 robot and competition was sponsored by NASA and Entergy.

At the end of the six weeks, the robot will be bagged and tagged and will not be opened again until the team arrives at the regional competition in late March. Once it’s unbagged, the robot will go through a rigorous inspection process before the team is given one day to practice on the competition field.
Faculty sponsor Maree Funk said some of the team’s work during “off-season” includes raising awareness and networking in the community. “We’re searching for sponsors who can help us during build season – people who know engineering, programming, welding or mechanics. We need people who can help build with motors, electronics, and mechanisms. We only have seven Saturdays during build season, and we welcome anyone who wants to come mentor.”
For the second year, LSU has provided a student mentor to the team. Last year’s mentor competed with a robotics team in high school, so she was able to guide them through their inaugural season. In 2017, LSU student Jonathan Nguyen offered his programming expertise until he graduated in December.
Fall is also the time to hone skills, and Williams assigns small projects for students to practice with power tools in the shop while others design the team’s website or program.
Competition requires multiple skills. “It’s almost like a business that you’re running,” said Esnault. “You have to have a business plan. They require safety brochures for your team and pamphlets about your team. Some team members have to do a small presentation – talk about our robot, talk about our season, and answer some questions.”

Details:

Bronco Robotics, Zachary High School, 4100 Bronco Lane, Zachary, LA 70791; www.zacharyhigh.org; broncoroboticsteam@gmail.com; 225-654-2776. Amazon Wish List: www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1DEYOGJIQ87XN; Facebook: Bronco Robotics Team 6489

Second-year team member Brailyn King said last year she was assigned to the media team, but she had to exercise other skills when teammates were unavailable. “You have to step into other roles and figure out what you need to do.”
Williams added, “Brailyn is very good at stepping in. Last week she said she felt like she was getting to try out various careers. As the team sees the project come together, they realize how important each part of it is. It’s mostly about the robot, but it’s not just about the robot. It’s about leadership, collaboration, and growth.”
At the Bayou Regional competition, three teams make up an alliance that competes against another alliance. The teams have to work together to accomplish tasks. Esnault said entering their first tournament was intimidating, but her fears were soon assuaged. “It’s a friendly competition. They call it a ‘cooperatition.’ If something goes wrong with your robot that you can’t fix, some other team will come running with the parts or the tool and help you.”
Williams, Funk, and Esnault all agreed that they have been most impressed with the collaboration among teams. “Helpfulness is part of the competition culture,” said Funk. “Last year we were helped a lot, and now that we’re getting better, we’re going to pay that forward.”
Of course, the team would have never made it to the Bayou Regional competition without the support of NASA and Entergy, whose monetary donations covered the entry fee and some of the components needed to build the robot. This year, Bronco Robotics is proud to have Dow join as a new sponsor. Other businesses or individuals can get involved by offering in-kind donations, such as the use of equipment or facilities from a machine shop, transportation to competition, or meals for work days during build season.
“When we compete, we have a pit area – imagine a NASCAR pit – where we keep all of our tools and spare parts. If anything breaks or goes wrong during our competition, we go back to our pit and try to fix it,” said Funk.
For anyone who might be interested in helping via a donation, the team is also always in need of parts or tools (used or new), and they even have a wish list on Amazon. Most items on the wishlist are under $20, and all donations are appreciated.
“Even though it was a lot of work, the kids were so proud of themselves,” said Esnault. “By the end of the season, they had the robot that they set out to build. The journey from the beginning to the end was a huge accomplishment.”

Details: Bronco Robotics, Zachary High School, 4100 Bronco Lane, Zachary, LA 70791; www.zacharyhigh.org; broncoroboticsteam@gmail.com; 225-654-2776. Amazon Wish List: www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/1DEYOGJIQ87XN; Facebook: Bronco Robotics Team 6489

Live Oak Junior High student competes in national toy competition
By Kellee Hennessy Dickerson

Toy Name: Power Towers
Consumer Age: 6-8
From the Designer: When water flows, it can do cool things. If you have continuous water flowing through twisty pipes and confusing hatches, it is even cooler. Power Towers is a logic based toy for children 5-8 years old that teaches kids the logic of circuitry using water. Build tall towers out of tubes, and snap them together using the intuitive plug-in-the-socket design. Flow water through different tubes, and use logic gates with different hatches and stoppers to complicate the water flow. A logic gate is a device that gives off a stream of water based on the water that flows in. With tower cards that show you different pre-designed towers, as well as your own mind, you can constantly create new and amazing designs. Your children will be absolutely awestruck with the amazing power and fun of Power Towers, but remember to keep them supervised, as water can be messy. And lastly, remember to have fun with them; don’t leave yourself out!
Most young teens only play with toys and computer games; they don’t design them. Don’t tell that to 13-year-old Jackson Pemberton of Watson who competed for national honors in a toy design contest with a toy he designed called Power Towers as part of his advanced classes at the new Live Oak Junior High School in Watson.
“It teaches kids all about the principals of circuitry using water instead of electricity,” Jackson explained. “My teacher said our designs had to be safe, and I figured water has to be safer than the possibility of electrical shock.
“Jackson participates in the Live Oak District’s Gifted and Talented Program both as an academically gifted student and a theater student,” explained Allison Hull, teacher of the academically gifted.
He prefers the rigors of his gifted and advanced classes because they hold his interest and challenge him. Hull says Jackson’s talent spiraled to higher challenges beyond the classroom. He entered the Kidvention Toy Competition as part of his class assignment on voice and verb choice for his gifted English class.
“I thought this was just going to be an easy way to earn points,” he said when asked about his impression when Hull first challenged them to enter the competition. “Now I see this as an opportunity to help me along my journey to wherever life takes me.”
Power Towers is described by its inventor like this: “When water flows, it can do cool things. If you have continuous water flowing through twisty pipes and confusing hatches, it is even cooler. Power Towers is a logic based toy for children 5-8 years old that teaches kids the logic of circuitry using water. Build tall towers out of tubes, and snap them together using the intuitive plug-in-the-socket design. Flow water through different tubes, and use logic gates with different hatches and stoppers to complicate the water flow. A logic gate is a device that gives off a stream of water based on the water that flows in. With tower cards that show you different pre-designed towers, as well as your own mind, you can constantly create new and amazing designs. Your children will be absolutely awestruck with the amazing power and fun of Power Towers, but remember to keep them supervised, as water can be messy. And lastly, remember to have fun with them; don’t leave yourself out!”
Jackson was among the top five child toy inventor finalists (“kidventors”) in the world. His Power Towers won the popular vote but was beat out for the Overall Kidventor Award by Aeropong, which is basically a tethered ping pong game played without a table.
One of the prestigious judges was the inventor of Atari.
“The creativity and inventiveness of the hundreds of entries we received have far exceeded our expectations,“ said Karen Carson, co-founder of Fat Brain Toys and also a Kidventor Challenge judge. “Our goal in launching this contest was to give a new generation of kids a voice in creating a new generation of toys. What we’ve learned is that young minds are eager for more challenging, engaging, and imaginative experiences when they play. We’re thrilled with the response to the Kidventor Challenge and can’t wait to present this opportunity year after year.”
“We are so impressed with the ideas of these young makers who have demonstrated an ambition toward new possibilities and a unique sense of imagination, “said Dale Dougherty, founder and CEO of Make, and one of the judges of the Kidventor Contest. “We hope this will inspire even more kids to look for new opportunities for creativity and fun and embrace learning through the challenge of inventing.”
Jackson is the son of Reverend John and Mandy Pemberton of Watson. He is currently enrolled in 8th grade honors geometry through Live Oak High School and an English language arts class for the academically gifted at Live Oak Junior High. He also takes Spanish 1 for high school credit. Jackson enjoys reading, cross country running, and video gaming. He hopes to refine his coding skills so he can create more sophisticated programs – he has one app for sale on the Play Store already. It was designed to help prevent and combat dementia and Alzheimer’s in our senior population.
Jackson hopes to be a lawyer or engineer one day. “I just hope God puts things like this competition in my path to steer me in the direction I should go.” Jackson said.