Innovation meets imagination

Published 4:44 pm Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Central High School Robotics Club — the Portable Chargers — just wrapped up another competition in Hampton Roads where they finished second.

The club was created in 2015 under Robotics Lead Coach Mark Bailey. According to Bailey, the Portable Chargers is made up of 13 students who work together to build a robot for a series of competition held each year.

Teams have a specific time period to construct a robot and prepare it for competition. Teams are given a set of parameters, a motor, metal and wheels. All other materials and tools must be obtained by each individual team.

The Portable Chargers are now ranked 33rd in the competition district, according to Bailey.

“This is a huge challenge for small teams,” said Bailey. “We are competing against teams that are 10 times bigger than we are. There is no A, AA or AAA divisions; we are in the same district with schools that have thousands of students.”

The club designed a new robot to take to competitions this year. Competitions began in Blacksburg two weeks ago, and regular competition finished this past weekend.

“The project is to stimulate students to think and solve problems,” Bailey said. “COLT, our robot, has to be able to pick up softball-sized wiffle balls, shoot them into goals,

deliver gears to a tower and climb a rope.”

The Portable Chargers finished the competition in Blacksburg ranked 20 out of 38. They are currently overall ranked 68 out of 150 teams and are hoping to move forward and qualify for the tournament in Richmond.

Bailey said he hopes returning members will relay to the new club members the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship and on-your-feet thinking.

Bailey said he is humbled and grateful for the local businesses volunteering to help the team. There is no funding provided for the program, which costs roughly $15,000 to conduct, he said. This year, said Bailey, the team had approximately $11,000 in monetary and equipment donations.

The team will have to raise an additional roughly $4,000 if they qualify for the district tournament.

“It is my belief that this is the toughest, yet most rewarding competition that I have ever coached,” said Bailey. “(The students) learn true sportsmanship, get workforce experience, earn on-the-spot learning and are exposed to a fast-paced competitive drive.”