Tualatin High Engineering Club gears up for first competition

The Tualatin High Engineering Club will be looking for companies to sponsor its team in a robotics competition
by: Jennifer Clampet, ROBOTICS 101 — Students in the Tualatin High Engineering Club work to assemble parts of a chassis Friday after school. The club was formed this year and is gearing up to compete for the first time at the regional robotics competition.

TUALATIN - Think assembling a 130-pound robot with nothing more than some assorted parts and no instructions would be fun?

Apparently it is if you're working to compete for the first time in the regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

With only mild interest in the how-to videos playing on the nearby laptop, students in Tualatin High's Engineering Club worked to assemble a chassis for their yet-to-be-built robot. The students laid out tools and parts across several tables in a classroom in the school's new TECH Wing, which opened just this year.

'The TECH Wing was probably a big part of why the club was created this year,' said junior Devon Frazier. The Tualatin Engineering, Computers and Health Wing houses several classrooms built with technology in mind from the multiple outlets for Internet connections to the rows of desktop computers.

Counselor Katerina Toms smiled as she watched the students huddled in groups problem-solving as they assembled their pieces.

'It just exposes kids to a global vision of engineering,' Toms said.

The club's 20 to 30 student members are pumped to try and solve the anticipated robotics competition problem. Last year, teams had to build a robot that could move around and shoot a basketball. This year's challenge will be announced in January, and regional competitions will be held in March.

Tualatin's club has gotten off to a good start in its first year. The club received a $6,000 Engineering and Technology Industry Council grant from NASA. The grant, however, does not cover the full cost of assembling a competitive robot.

'Buying kits, paying for travel and tools - $10,000 is the low end for building a robot,' said Jill Hubbard, teacher and adviser for the engineering club.

Junior Jeff Ridinger will be overseeing marketing for the club's robotics project. Aside from T-shirts and logo designs, Ridinger said he also plans to look into company sponsorships for the club's robot.

But community support isn't just coming in the form of cash. Engineers in the community like Loren Jahraus, Ashutosh Tambe and Hugh Henderson were on hand last week to help students sort through the parts and the tools for building the basics of a robot. Brent Espenship, an engineer with Autodesk, is the lead engineer helping the club, Hubbard said.

All eyes were on Jahraus Friday as he explained the challenge of assembling a robot with no previous experience and no instructions.

'But I really like these design competitions, because you learn a lot along the way,' Jahraus said. 'The value you'll get is just by going through this.'