In a dark room in Bay High School’s science wing, three projectors emit red, green and blue streams of light onto a white sheet hanging on a far wall. The colors dance as the sheet sways in the breeze caused by children of different ages running to four other rooms with similar demonstrations.
It’s all part of the third annual Science Night, a fundraiser hosted by the school’s Science Club. The goal? Raise part of the $7,000 needed to be in a robotics competition next March at Cleveland State University. Science teacher Michael Clifford, the club’s adviser, hopes the competition will better equip his students for careers in the sciences.
“It gives them the confidence they need for them to know that they can do this as a career,” he said. “I think it’s going to lead to more students getting into those STEM fields that are so important for our future.”
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The contest is called FIRST Robotics Competition and is an international tournament for high school students that costs $5,000 to enter. The competition offers three challenges in LEGO, Tech and Robotics categories and mixes the concept of sports with the challenges of science and technology, according to the organization’s website.
Teams ban together to design, assemble and operate a robot to achieve specific themed goals that the contest lays out. The theme for the competition is announced in January and each team has 11 weeks to create a robot to take to the competition.
“I think it’s really cool that we have this (club). I don’t think I would have ever imagined myself building a robot,” said Cal Oster, a senior and one of the team captains. “I think it’s really cool that it’s open to everyone and is as unique as it is.”
This competition isn’t just for the glory, though. It’s also a way for young inventors to branch out and meet new people.
The club’s 20-member team, called Quantum Steam, will get a chance to apply engineering, programming and design concepts taught at the high school to create a robot. Everything about it is designed from scratch, from the physical look to the language it uses to communicate.
“They’re doing real-life engineering,” Clifford said. “This isn’t a little build-a-LEGO kit where they’re following instructions. They’re working with real engineers and doing real programming with real programming languages.”
The team will compete against teams from Rocky River and Avon in the Buckeye Regional competition held at the Cleveland Wolstein center in March. Winners will get a trophy and have the opportunity to earn scholarship money. Winning the competition also earns interest from robotics and engineering firms looking to hire, Clifford said.
Science Night raised almost $300 for the competition, adding on to the $5,000 the club has received through donations and backing from the school district. However, the team wants to raise $2,000 more for expenses associated with the event, such as travel and food. It also is still looking for local sponsors.
Donations can be made a number of ways either through the school board, the high school or a check made out to the club, Clifford said.
This is the third time that the club has entered this competition. It placed 33rd among 54 teams its first year and 44th last year. In its offseason this year, the team competed in the Curiosity Open with its newest robot and placed fifth among 20 teams, its highest finish.
“Every year it’s going to grow and keep getting better as we continue doing this competition,” Clifford said.
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