AWT Junior Bots – The nuts and bolts…
The AWT Foundation (Alliance for Working Together), promotes rewarding careers in manufacturing. Students are exposed to manufacturing through a variety of ways – tours, speakers, career fairs such as ThinkMFG Expo, the Summer Manufacturing Institute and the popular combat robotics program, AWT RoboBots.
Many of our area schools currently offer STEM classes or curriculum at the middle school level. The popularity of these programs is growing at a fast pace. The hands- on style of STEM education directly correlates to the experience students are offered in the AWT RoboBots program. Over the past few years, parents have asked if we have a program for younger students…and now we do.
Our high school program is an intensive one. Students start in the fall and spend several hours a week at their manufacturing sponsor’s facility working on their bot. They are given safety training, orientations, provided personal protection equipment and may even have the chance to run a machine under the direct supervision of experienced machinists.
There was a need to come up with a program that would be appropriate for middle school-aged students while maintaining the ‘wow’ of the high school RoboBots competition.
So…what happens on a Junior Bots Team? Teams design and build/assemble a junior version of a combat robot, they keep track of their budget, they create and track their project plan (with the help of their teacher/coach), they troubleshoot issues and make improvements to the robot, and they compete with other Junior Bot teams from Lake and Geauga counties on April 29, 2017 at Lakeland Community College.
With the amazing support of State Representative, Ron Young, and State Senator, John Eklund, AWT Junior Bots (pilot program) received state funding last school year. Junior Bot kits, created in partnership with Depco, LLC, are designed to be reusable each year with minor updates – to repair any damage – and the selection of a new weapon.
New this year is that modifications will be allowed within NRL regulations (National Robotics League). In addition, a Repair Kit and Botcoin Store have been set up which will allow each team to utilize a virtual budget in order to buy parts and tools for modifications to their bot. Teams are also allowed to spend real money or trade for their modifications if they wish.
Just like the high school Robotics teams, each Junior Bots team is assigned a manufacturing sponsor partner from an AWT member company. These sponsor partners lead brainstorming sessions and create a manufacturing process map with their partner team. They also provide technical guidance and ensure that the robots are complete in preparation for the competition day.
It has been amazing to see the incredible interest by students, teachers and parents in this program, even in year two, as a number of teams have been added. All teams look forward with great anticipation to competition day on Saturday, April 29, 2017. Add the date to your calendar as this outstanding event is open to the public and offers such great entertainment. The atmosphere and energy are electric!