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PHS robotics team hopes competition is a real treat

By Staff
Team working at frightening pace to get ready for UAH competition
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Members of Priceville High School's Robotics team are working at a feverish pace this week to get ready for the Tennessee Valley BEST competition at the University of Alabama in Huntsville Oct. 28. First and second place finishers from the 15 entries will go on to compete in southern competition at Auburn University the next weekend.
The object of the competition is to repair the Hubbell Telescope in space with the use of a robot. The task involves the removal and replacement of eight batteries and a booster unit in the Hubbell within a three-minute period. Points are awarded to teams based of how quickly and efficiently they are able to use their robot and related equipment to complete the assigned task.
"Every robotics team starts on a level playing field," Greg Brown, project manager, said. "We start with a basic kit complete with suggested materials and instructions and we have six weeks to complete the project."
Another equally important part of the entry is a 10 foot x10 foot exhibit booth. It is used to document the development of the robot with various visual and sound devices. Priceville's booth will include a 10-minute video featuring the photographs of team member Tyler Johnson and a motorized replica of the Hubbell in simulated orbit. It, too, will be judged in the competition. The team also competes for best web site honors. The web site,, was built by Tyler Johnson.
The design and application of the robot is a key element in the competition. It is attached to a long arm on a platform, which can be rotated 360 degrees. In the competition, two team members are allowed to operate the platform and robot from a remote location. Only the robot, with its two hands and arms, is permitted to make contact with the component parts of the telescope.
"The hardest part about this is the many hours it takes, especially for those of us who play football," Brown pointed out.
"Sometimes, it's like being at school up to 14 hours a day."
"You learn a lot," senior Lauren Bowen said. "I can see how this is going to benefit me as I continue my education career."
"We're a close-knit group," Jessica Kennedy said. "We are learning how to pool our talents and work with others on a project of mutual interest."
Other team members who have played key roles on the project are John Miller and Andrew Gilbert.
This is the fourth consecutive year Priceville has sponsored a robotics team and participated in the BEST competition. The team consists of 56 students from grades nine through 12. Eight are permitted to take part in competitions.
"This is a wonderful extracurricular program," Rochelle Biffle, faculty sponsor, said. "I feel like the students have learned a lot, especially those who have been in it since it started."
To help finance their projects, the Robotics club solicits memberships in the community, conducts fundraisers and receives support from the Town of Priceville and corporate sponsors.