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Red Birds excel at robotics competition

Published: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:37 a.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013 11:50 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Ty Rushing/Newton Daily News)
Pictured from left, Ryan Rosenquist, Nick Springer, and Sebastian Peters won first place in Robot Sumo Wrestling at the IT Olympics at Iowa State University which was held from April 26-27.

Robot sumo wrestling, cybernetic defense, game design, GPS tagging trees and placing QR codes on them at Maytag Park are some of the things Newton Senior High School students can look forward to participating in by joining the NHS IT Club.

The school recently had several teams competing at the IT Olympics at Iowa State University in the robotics category. The team made up of juniors Ryan Rosenquist and Nick Springer and senior Sebastian Peters won first in the Lego Mindstorms NXT Sumo Competition in which students test their robots mettle up against one another.

“This is our sixth year attending the competition,” NHS teacher Jodi Morgan-Peters said.

Other aspects to the robotic category include a community service project and real-time events which included IQ and building challenges.

Morgan-Peters and fellow NHS teacher Eric Grabe are the advisors for the team/club. Peters explained how NHS got involved in IT Adventures and its annual IT Olympics competition.

“My husband has been involved in IT Olympics since its inception,” Morgan-Peters said. “When I started teaching here he asked, ‘If we would like to have a group?’ and I said, ‘Sure.’

“I’ve enjoyed it, it’s a pretty rewarding experience to work with kids outside of school and to see things that they get excited about,” Morgan-Peters said. “I think the whole point of IT Adventures is to pump up careers in IT. I think we’ve had some kids chose careers in IT because of the IT Olympics and the experience within our club.”

Peters, who is also Morgan-Peters’ son, has participated in the program for four years and wanted to join before he was even attended NHS.

“Before I actually came to high school I was sitting in on it because I had to come to the high school from the bus after middle school every day,” Peters said. “That kind of made me interested in it.”

Peters and the other members of his team all had different roles on the team and, due to him being a senior and having more free time, he took on the role as the robots primary builder.

“I was the builder, we actually joined pretty late, we were doing cyber defense,” Peters said. “We joined with about three weeks to the competition, so I came in during second block and worked on the robot a lot.”

“I think us being in cyber (defense) for the majority of the year and then getting first in the sumo thing was actually pretty funny to me,” Springer added. He also served as the primary programmer. “I don’t know if [winning the sumo portion] was the most rewarding part, but it was very odd to me.”

The team noted that a majority of other schools spend most of the school year testing and building their robots for the competition.

“I had to write a program that had to be offensive, but kind of defensive at the same time,” Springer said.

“Our program was very simplistic in its design,” Rosenquist said. He helped with programming and wrote the majority of the documents. “Overall, I think simplicity wins. I would guess that’s one of the reasons we won the competition because we kept with a simplistic design. This design for our robot has being going strong for three years straight.”

While the team was thrilled to win the sumo portion, they were disappointed that they lost the community service project. Members of the IT Club GPS tagged 10 trees around Maytag Park and placed QR codes on the trees. When you scan the QR Codes it takes you to maytagparktrees.wordpress.com.

The site reveals botanical information about each tree and gives the exact coordinates. If you visit all 10 trees in the correct order and look on Google Earth, you can see that your path would make a giant capital N.

With Rosenquist and Springer returning the odds seem to favor a repeat Cardinal victory next year, but the students want to win more than just the sumo portion at the IT Olympics.

“Using what we learned this year and applying it to next year and trying to make a better robot,” Springer said of his goals.

“Simplicity wins,” Rosenquist said.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at trushing@newtondailynews.com.

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