Local

June 21, 2012

Zombots bring robots to life at USACE Coyote Dam

Story and photo by JC Delgadillo

Anthony Kee, a member of the Vallejo High School robotics team in California, The Zombots, holds the robot he and fellow teammates built.

LAKE MENDOCINO, Calif. — In 2005, the National Academies published a report demanding more investment in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education in America. “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” warned that for the United States to remain alive and kicking in a global economy, the nation’s leaders, both public and private, must make STEM-education a priority.

To that end, determined educators like Beth Traub and Jack Gillespie are inspiring the next generation of innovators through their love of math, robotics and zombies.

Traub and Gillespie are the teacher-mentors of the Vallejo High School robotics team named The Zombots.

“We got that name because are first major sponsor owns a funeral home,” explained Jack Gillespie, who happens to be married to Lyn Gillespie, the chief of Engineering and Technical Services Division at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District. No special math or science aptitude is required of students to join The Zombots, just insanity and commitment to the team, quips Gillespie.

But it’s not the appeal of zombies rampant in today’s popular culture that seems to be attracting teens to the club. Teens like Stephanie Bond, a senior who plans to continue participating in The Zombots throughout her final year in high school despite the tremendous time commitment. Bond and other students have dedicated about 300 hours each to The Zombots this semester alone.

“We warn people, don’t join. You’ll sign away your soul in blood on paper to the teachers. You’ll have no life afterward. You’re done, don’t do it,” she said. “But it’s totally worth it.”

Traub explains that the team has formed strong bonds over the shared hours of joy and misery building robots and all the business that goes along with supporting the team including website development, seeking sponsors and competing in robotics competitions.

The team has developed several robots including one called Charles, named after the 1980’s sitcom Charles in Charge. Just two days into summer vacation, a group of twenty Zombots members deployed Charles at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coyote Dam. The Coyote Dam project was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1944 and completed in 1958 for purposes of flood risk reduction, water supply, recreation and stream flow regulation. The six million cubic yard dam is compacted earth fill with an impervious core and measures 160 feet high and 3,500 feet long.

The goal was to see if Charles could inspect a toe drain on the Coyote Dam to assess the conditions of the pipe, essentially checking for any degradation, explained Derrick Dunlap, San Francisco District’s Operations & Readiness Division deputy.

Charles looks more like a rover than C-3PO and operates a bit like a remote-controlled video borescope used for inspections. The robot weighs about 7 pounds and has a 1/8 thick polycarbonate frame with rugged polypropylene treads on its wheels. Charles is powered by a 7.2 volt battery and has a camera mounted on it that transmits images to a nearby computer.

“We want a device that can crawl up the pipe and provide some data about conditions such as rust, dents or cracks,” Dunlap said. “So we were open to seeing what the kids’ robot could do.”

The students placed the robot in the pipe, which is at an angle, and began directing it upward through the dark and mucky space. Charles trudged his way up several feet, but after a few starts and stops, students determined that Charles couldn’t get enough traction to move upward significantly due to a large amount of sludge in the pipe the robot’s treads were not prepared for. Some students appeared dejected, but most offered up ideas for solutions to the traction problem such as adding sharp-edged zip ties to the treads or making the robot heavier.

Mike Dillabough, chief of the San Francisco District’s Operations & Readiness Division, said he liked what he was seeing and hearing and invited The Zombots team to return to Coyote Dam in August after some modifications are made to the robot.

As reports urge the need for increased STEM-education in America, robotics team’s like The Zombots are inspiring the next generation of innovators to build strong.

“I definitely want to take my experiences here and use them in college and my future career,” said Bond. “It’s something I find interesting, figuring out how things work, working with my hands, building things and making them work,” she said.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Gabrielle Kuholski

Post children attend Vacation Bible School week

Gabrielle Kuholski Pictured with the microphone, Colleen Sherod, 20, Vacation Bible School volunteer, emcees a review of the week’s religious lessons as VBS students hold up posters of their “Bible buddies.” The activity ...
 
 
Maranda Flynn

Seifert School-Age Center offers fun for kids, piece-of-mind for parents

Maranda Flynn Selene Ferro, 9, Jaliah Eldridge, 7, and Malachi Bergstrom, 7, build a puzzle train city in the creative play area of the first through third grade room at the Seifert School-Age Center. Creative play allows child...
 
 
AAFES-Dog-Contest-7_2014.7

Main Gate Express hosts dog dress up contest

Monica Card, Fort Huachuca Main Gate Express store manager, awards Gunner, first place in the Main Gate Express’ “Most Patriotic Dog” contest. The event took place outside the store Saturday.   Pet owners and their f...
 

 
Photos by Maranda Flynn

Back to school at Fort Huachuca

Carissa Incorvaia receives information from Dennis Houston about Club Beyond, a youth ministry geared towards military teens. Club Beyond, which is located at the Main Chapel on Fort Huachuca, was one of the organizations prese...
 
 
Filing

Recent Fort Huachuca Soldier finds immediate employment through ACAP, now known as SFLTAP

Arvie Ramos files paperwork July 23 at his new job with the Bureau of Land Management in Sacramento, California. With assistance from the Fort Huachuca Army Career and Alumni Program, Ramos was hired as a human resource special...
 
 
Principals-3_2014.7

Fort Huachuca School District welcomes two new principals

Pictured in the foreground, from left, Keeley Huffman, 11, meets Valerie Quarto, her new school principal of General Myer Elementary at the Back to School Fair held in the school’s gym July 17. Also pictured in the background...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin