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'Kitty' robot built from scratch

February 26, 2004|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

"Kitty" scratches and bites, but it's no normal cat - it's a robot built by a team of 10 students at Williamsport High School.

The team named its robot Kitty because the school's mascot is a wildcat.

It is the first year the school has entered the Chesapeake Regional FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, team co-captain Nick Ceffalia, 17, said.

Under the rules of competition, Kitty and another robot developed by a Washington County Technical High School team are to be sent today to the site of a regional competition in Annapolis scheduled March 18-20.

Kitty's name took on another meaning during the six weeks the students have been working to build the robot to meet criteria.

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On Tuesday, Ceffalia showed off scratches and other injuries he received while helping build the robot. He said the injuries prompted him to put a sticker on the robot: "Warning: Kitty bites."

Ceffalia and co-captain Erin Moyer, 16, have been working on the robot for a minimum of three hours every school day for about six weeks. Both are juniors and plan to be part of a team again next year.

Last year, a Washington County Technical High School-based team entered the competition, marking the first time a high school team from Washington County entered the contest, teacher and team adviser Amanda Corcoran said.

This year, Williamsport decided to enter its own robot in the competition. The Technical High School Robotechs team again entered its robot, Techie-Bot.

After much labor, including computer programming and adjusting sensors, the two teams finished work on the robots this week. The teams will compete against about 50 other teams in the March regional competition.

Ceffalia and Moyer said they are learning skills they hope to use in their careers.

Ceffalia said he would like to have a career in which he builds customized machines such as robots used to defuse bombs. Moyer said she would like to go into electrical engineering.

Their adviser - technical education teacher James Prelog - said students not only are learning technical skills and how to implement them but also how to work together as teams without hurting each other's feelings.

Ling Xiao, 19, a senior, is the captain of the 15-student Washington County Technical High School team. He was on the team last year.

The hands-on project is the best educational assignment he has ever had, he said. He plans to pursue a career as a technician.

The teams are judged on a variety of criteria that include how the robot operates, how well the team works together and other factors.

There also is a category for best team Internet site.

The Williamsport team's Internet site is www.alt.wcboe.k12.md.us/mainfold/schoopag/high/wmspthigh/robot/index.htm.

The Washington County Technical High School team's site is at www.wcboe.k12.md.us/departments/robotics/robotechs_main.htm.

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