Robot teaches perseverance

Staff writer

It took the students in Marion High School’s robotics class nearly two months to prepare their robot for competition, but the education did not stop once building was complete.

“Every competition, there’s always little things that can be changed and that’s where it’s kind of a work in progress,” senior Clint Kroupa said. “At competitions you can look at other robots and get ideas.”

Kroupa said quite a bit of trial and error goes into designing a robot for competition, so it meets size requirements but also can perform the tasks needed for success.

At the ESSDACK Kansas Tournament of Champions Saturday, the team — comprised solely of Kroupa and Japanese foreign exchange student Hikaru Kikirikura — made it through preliminary competition, before losing to undefeated teams from Belton (Mo.) High School in the quarterfinals.

“We’re competing against clubs which kids are putting in 8½ hours after school,” class coordinator Don Molleker said.

Because of budget concerns, Marion’s robotics class uses steel instead of aluminum, which can weigh down the robot more. Other schools competing also put in time during the summer and after school though, while Marion students receive less than an hour per day, and began work on their robot in January.

Regardless of drawbacks, Marion is one of only a few schools in the area with the capabilities to have the class. This is the first year the course was offered.

“Compared to most classes, this is more of a hands-on class,” Kroupa said. “A lot of classes don’t have a competition where you show what you’ve done and been able to learn.”

Molleker said the class gives students real-world problem solving experience, but scheduling anyone other than seniors is hard because other class requirements take precedence.

“It’s tough getting people scheduled in it,” he said. “Some people don’t have enough interest in it even though they could probably use it in their career.”

Molleker said he would be willing to extend class time beyond school hours, if there was enough interest.

“It’s fun to be able to mess around trying to experiment and figure stuff out engineering-wise,” Kroupa said.

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