Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

January 23, 2013

Travis ‘Arsonist’ bot headed for state


Mineral Wells Index

— By LIBBY CLUETT

For the second time in three years Travis Elementary School will send a robotics team to Texas Computer Education Association state competition, helping establish a pattern of success.

The robotics program is just three years old, explained team coach Sandy Cox, who also teaches fifth-grade math and science.

Two Travis teams of fifth- and sixth-grade students competed at regional robotics competition on Jan. 12 in the “Intermediate Inventions” category.

One team, called “Orders Up,” created a “drink server bot, to help waitresses serve drinks when they are really busy,” Cox said. She added that the bot had different outfits, from a tuxedo to a game jersey.

The second team, called “The Arsonist,” designed a “mobile fire alarm bot” that could detect heat sources and send an alert to firemen, providing a safer environment for emergency services personnel.

“It locates fires when they are small still, in an office building or warehouse,” Cox explained.

Since the robot would be on the floor, and not up high like smoke detectors, she said it could more easily detect the beginnings of a fire.

The teams not only had to design, build, program and document all the processes for their bot, but also make a formal marketing presentation to judges justifying the viability of their product. Their competition were other Region 11 teams comprised of students in grades five through eight.

Cox said both Travis teams had pretty good projects and they used PowerPoint for their presentations. She noted that no other schools had PowerPoint presentations; instead, she said other schools used folding poster board.

“Our team had PowerPoint with laptops, photos and clip art,” she said.

The Arsonist team placed second overall in “Intermediate Inventions” for Region 11 and now qualifies to participate in April at the TCEA state competition in Deer Park, just east of Houston.

Cox said the first year Travis competed in the TCEA “Arena” competition they advanced to state, but last year Travis didn't send a team to compete in regionals.

Three months ago the teams initiated their ideas and formed those into functional robots.

“If it won't do what you want, you have to problem solve like an engineer,” Cox said.

“The fire bot had complex programming,” she said, adding that students had 6 minutes to do their presentation in front of judges, without their coach in the room.

“Judges can ask questions,” she said. “It's like selling your bot and using engineering-type problem solving when you design your bot.”

Members of The Arsonist team have a little time now to continue to refine their robot and sales pitch before state competition.