GHS teacher reaches out to other school divisions to promote robotics

Kim Robins - Posted on Aug 14, 2013 - 12:57 PM

Photo: Gloucester High School robotics team members Zach Tilley, at left, and Dwight Keener display two of their competitive machines. Tilley is shown with the GHS entry in the VEX robotics program and Keener holds the students’ new design for underwater robotics competition. Photo by Kim Robins

Gloucester High School robotics team members Zach Tilley, at left, and Dwight Keener display two of their competitive machines. Tilley is shown with the GHS entry in the VEX robotics program and Keener holds the students’ new design for underwater robotics competition. Photo by Kim Robins

Gloucester High School technology teacher Rusty West and his students want to share their robotics knowledge, skills and success with teachers and students at other schools.

"We’re interested in reaching out to them and saying we’ll come help. We’ll help to train teachers and work with them and their students, and they can come practice with us," said West. He wants to help bring robotics to schools, both public and private, to show the educational benefits of building and programming robots.

West and his students are proven qualified instructors in the field. West has helped GHS produce VEX Robotics competition teams that have, for the past three years, advanced to the VEX World Championship.

During the last school year, West also introduced his students to the Sea Perch program. Through a grant, he was able to purchase the kits that students use to build remotely operated underwater vehicles. His students only had about a week and a half to work on their underwater robots, and used a large container of water to test them.

"We didn’t have time to practice in a pool," West explained, so they used what they had at hand to prepare for the Tidewater region Sea Perch Competition. West and GHS science teacher Susan Gardner took five teams to the competition where one team of four GHS students took first place overall, earning a trip to the National Sea Perch Challenge in Indianapolis, Ind.

After the Tidewater competition, West said his students went straight to work on a redesign. They abandoned the angled PVC pipes that make up the traditional Sea Perch robot and created a new, flat platform for their ROV (remotely operated vehicle). "It floats perfectly, and it’s fast, too," said Dwight Keener, who was on the victorious GHS team at the regional event and was working on the new design.

West said Sea Perch program is seen more widely in Northern Virginia schools and is relatively new to this region. He said the ROV materials only cost about $30 and the underwater vehicles can be a fun and inexpensive introduction to robotics.

West said this fall there will be three classes of robotics at GHS, and the introductory classes at the middle school level are full. "We lose four seniors from our competition team but we still have a bunch of juniors and sophomores. With the growth in the middle school program, we should also see some interested freshmen."