Cyber Cadets making robots

—Newest student organization is using STEM to build competition bots
Cresco - It’s a mixture of Junkyard Wars, BattleBots, gaming and the United States Space Program. In fact, NASA has played a part in helping Cyber Cadets 7646 ready for a March robotics competition at the UNI Dome.
Several students belonging to the group attended the Jan. 21 Howard-Winneshiek School Board meeting with instructor Mr. Todd Knobloch.
He explained, “Mr. Ihns came to me and said, ‘I got this letter.’ It was about starting a robotics team. I applied for and got a $6,000 grant to get started. I went to Cedar Falls. Their team hosted four new teams in Iowa on a Friday and Saturday. I learned the tip of the iceberg!
“The essence of the project is there are 7,000 teams that will compete around the country in March. We will compete March 21-23 at the UNI Dome with 53 other teams, three of them from other countries.
“I was panicking. There is a $6,000 entry fee. I wrote a grant to NASA and won that. A grant from the How-Winn Foundation got us a tool chest and tools.”
Once the club got over those first hurdles, members started going full throttle. Earlier in the year, they practiced a little with a robot. 
Then Jan. 5 hit!
That is the day the group could start working on their competition robot. It needs to be built and sealed up by Feb. 16, which has given the team just six weeks to design, build and program their robot.
They have another month to work with the controllers and their original robot to practice their mission.
One of the team members, Eric Trautsch told school board members, “There are more rules than instructions,” causing laughter during the meeting.
At this year’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, the mission is Deep Space, in which the teams will have to work with two other teams to complete a set of tasks.
For the competition, the robot can only be 125 pounds, minus the battery and bumpers. Teams are given some parts, but members have to get other parts. The high speed of this machine is 20 feet/second. Cyber Cadets will only have two minutes, 45 seconds to accomplish as much as possible, earning points along the way.
Knobloch noted, “Right now, the team has 7-9 people who are really involved. We started making the robot two days a week. Now we are doing it every night, getting done at 6:30-7.”
Not all team members can attend each work session. These kids are busy! They have other extracurricular activities, jobs and family obligations, but many consider being part of Cyber Cadets not as a chore or responsibility, but fun!
Student Niklaus Knobloch, who enjoys building and design work, explained, “We got dropped into it, and we have to figure it out. You are actually doing it!”
Tyrone Grant said he enjoys engineering things. He is  involved in all facets of the build.
Annaleigh Shileny said she was able to pair her interests into a club. “I can now expand what I know.”
Devin Schott works with building and design.
During a work-session on Jan. 24, Mr. Knobloch related, “The most exciting part is watching them work together to solve problems.” One will throw out a suggestion and the other team members will think about it and add to the conversation or play devil’s advocate.
That evening, Trautsch brought his skills of writing the program language to the table and was able to get the wheels to run by remote control, to the hoots of the other members.
They already decided Niklaus will be the driver, with Grant and Trautsch as co-pilots. This may change as the process continues, but everyone seems in agreement of the decisions.
“They work really well together on checks and balances,” the instructor said.
Mr. Knobloch noted, the competition was born when a couple guys from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) wanted kids to make something from what they’ve learned.
Beg, borrow 
but no stealing
This is the Cyber Cadets’ first project. Other teams have been doing it for 18 years. They have parts from all sorts of previous projects and donations saved up. Cyber Cadets have very few.
Luckily the team’s leader is resourceful. “I’m good at scrounging stuff. I’ve got some used stuff from maintenance,” laughed Mr. Knobloch.
But he could use some help. Money is always a good donation, so the team can get exactly what it wants. But other useful items would include scrap aluminum, motors, electrical devices, plywood and even nuts and bolts. A person never knows what could come in handy.
The Cadets are starting from scratch.
Eventually, Mr. Knobloch would like to get some corporate and private sponsors. He would also like to get some community members with design or manufacturing skills involved.
“Anyone from tool & die, manufacturing, electrical or pneumatics and has good design and mechanical skills can be a mentor,” he volunteered. Actually, anyone who is interested can come for a half-hour, hour or the entire session and give their input.
Superintendent Ted Ihns told the students at the board meeting, “To see the progress you have made from a few weeks ago is amazing! When you find something didn’t work and you try again . . . that’s the world we live in.”
These students are leading the way for other How-Winn kids to get their chance to learn robotics and all that it involves. Who knows, the district may be helping the next Steve Jobs to find his or her vocation.

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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