A grant from Time-Warner Cable is providing several Maine School of Science and Mathematics students with innovative robotics training. The MSSM Robotics Club is a student activity led by physics teacher Pierre Gervez. The club offers students an opportunity to gain knowledge in robotics and automated control systems through games, competitions and personal projects initiated by the students. To do this, students must build upon their understanding of mathematics, the laws of motion, computer programming, electronics and engineering.

Robotics Club members Kristy Garcia of Rockland and Lucy Wilcox of New Gloucester recently attended the STEM for Maine’s Future Summit 2010 held in Augusta. As exhibitors, the students explained and demonstrated how their robots work and presented a poster detailing the evolution of their robots.

The MSSM Robotics Clubs will participate in the second annual Maine VEX Robotics Competition hosted by the University of Maine Robotics Club. The competition involves matches in which two robots race against the clock to perform various tasks faster than their opponents. In preparation for the competition, students recently spent their two-week J-Term establishing teams and designing robots. Using VEX Robotic Design System kits purchased with the Time-Warner grant, each team designed and built a robot that could qualify to participate in the Maine VEX Championship, to be held Saturday, March 27 at the University of Maine in Orono. MSSM will send two teams to the competition.

The VEX competition limits a robot’s size, restricts the number of motors and the number of controllers, and bars the use of non-VEX-certified components, Gervez said. Maneuvering inside a walled court during a timed two-minute contest, a robot must transfer specific balls (small VEX basketballs and footballs) over the wall to an adjacent court without touching that wall. Complicating the contest are three other robots, one in the same court and two in the adjacent court, all vying to move the same balls.