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April 24, 2014

MTA students bring home top honors

TRAVERSE CITY — National Robotics Challenge judges love to see red stickers on a project. They designate the parts of the robot that are student-built, which points to innovation and creativity.

High school seniors enrolled in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District Career Tech Center’s Manufacturing Technology Academy didn’t take any short cuts in their final projects.

Kalkaska High School’s Alexis Archer, Glen Lake High School’s Amanda Lodge and Forest Area High School’s Mary Graham designed and constructed almost every element of their musical robot.

“We had red dots on basically everything but the arm, the laptop and the controller box,” Lodge said.

The students click a mouse and flip a few switches. Then they step back and watch their robot go to work.

It grabs a hose, dips it into a container filled with water and proceeds to fill stemmed glasses to various levels. Robotic batons then tap the glasses, and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” ring out from the robot’s cage.

The students’ ambition paid off at the 2014 National Robotics Challenge in Marion, Ohio April 11-13. The team earned First Place Gold in the manufacturing robotic work cell category and went on to beat out more than 400 robots to win the Honda Innovation Award, the contest’s top honor.

“I was shocked when we won,” Graham said.

Frankfort High School’s Austin Oberski, Kingsley High School’s Colton Lowe and Buckley High School’s Michael Rosek took home a First Place Gold Award in the robot construction category and were nominated for the Honda Innovation Award.

Their robot, dubbed the “Garden Defender,” is designed to track and shoot rodents with small, plastic balls do discourage pests from destroying vegetation. The team had yet to have a successful run with their machine before the day of the contest, but everything worked smoothly.

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