PC Rocket Robotics will celebrate the end of their second season with a community open house on Saturday, Feb. 29, from 1 to 4 p.m.
Everyone is invited to attend and see firsthand the outstanding work of this year’s teams, according to John and Angie Pendleton, organizers.
PC Rocket Robotics is a 501c3 non-profit that offers STEM opportunities for Patrick County youngsters as part of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics program. FIRST Robotics in a worldwide non-profit dedicated to providing youth with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) based activities to promote learning, teamwork and gracious professionalism. The program combines the excitement of a sports-based game with the rigors of science and technology. It is called the ultimate sport of the mind and offered as ‘the hardest fun you will ever have,’ according to Angie Pendleton. It is the only sport where every team member can turn “pro,” she added.
This season, Patrick County’s first ever FIRST LEGO League (FLL) team — Team 45119 The PC LEGO Heads — began. FLL is a unique program for up to 10 kids, grades 4-8, to work as a team to build and program a LEGO based robot in a challenge where they compete against other teams from all over Virginia. FLL teams also research an innovation project each season that they present to judges at their season ending competition.
The PC Lego Heads team included Kayleen Wood, Isaiah Wood, Henry Glen, Elise Farmer, Wheeler Helms, Rafe Boyd, Abigail Lavinder, Elijah Lavinder and Jude Martin. Grace Helms helped and mentored the team, and “we want to say a very special thank you to her,” Angie Pendleton said.
In this season’s Innovation Project, the team was tasked to research and find solutions to a problem they saw with a public space or building in their community. The PC LEGO Heads decided to focus their research on our local county parks and how to make them more inclusive for all kids of any skill level. They learned a great deal about recycling in our county and the benefits of a better recycling system. The team researched ideas of how they could take recycled materials, such as plastic, and turn that material into playground equipment for local parks.
In their first season, the PC LEGO Heads also built a competitive robot and competed it against more than 33 Virginia teams at the Blacksburg Qualifier, held on Nov. 9, according to Angie Pendleton.
PC Rocket Robotics is committed to sponsoring FIRST LEGO League teams that will be part of the Patrick County Elementary school system. After seeing the success and fun the PC LEGO Heads had this season, funding these teams to take the burden away from the tight school budget will be a priority this year, according to the Pendletons.
The PC Rocket Robotics FTC Team 14597 began their second season on Sept. 9 with this year’s game release, SKYSTONE.
FTC is an opportunity for up to 15 kids in Grades 7-12 to come together as a team that builds, programs and designs a competitive robot to compete against teams from around the state of Virginia. Team 14597 worked extremely hard this year and expanded on the knowledge they gained from their 1st season to build an outstanding robot this year.
This year’s PC Rocket Robotics team included of Jacob Wood, Daniel Wood, Kyle Clawson, Aiden Douglas, Evan Farmer, Andrew Rakes, Hunter Meade, Quentin Perkins, Matthew Bowman and Chad Willard.
PC Rocket Robotics competed Jan. 11 in Salem, and again on Jan. 18 in Orange, Virginia. During these qualifiers, the team typically competes five times during the day, with the hope of placing high enough to be selected for the semi-finals elimination tournament. During each round, each team is paired with an alliance partner that is randomly selected. The two teams then compete against two other teams. The alliance with the most points at the end of the round gets the win. Each round consists of a 2.5-minute match. The first 30 seconds of the match are fully autonomous. The team must program their robot to perform certain task to earn points without any manual control of the robot. Every task the robot performs is accomplished by programing the robot to use sensors or images from the phone camera to complete the task.
After the 30 second autonomous mode, the two-minute manual game begins. Teams program game controllers to allow the robot to drive and perform other advanced tasks. In this mode, the team can score points by picking up certain objects and placing them in specific places on the field. The last 30 seconds of manual mode is called the end game, and offers teams other opportunities to earn points by making their robot perform certain other tasks.
PC Rocket Robotics Team 14597 continued improving as the season went along, the Pendletons said.
“At our Orange event, they finished the qualifying rounds ranked 3rd out of the 28 teams they were competing against. This allowed the team to be the captain of the 3rd seeded alliance and select their alliance partners,” Angie Pendleton said. “While our alliance lost the best 2 out of 3 semifinals match 2 game to 1, PC Rocket Robotics could not be any prouder of the accomplishments of this team. This year, there were 182 teams in Virginia that competed, and PC Rocket Robotics finished our year ranked 19th. Additionally, the team finished in the top 10% out of 3,726 teams that competed in SKYSTONE, which is made up of teams from all across the United States,” she added.
“PC Rocket Robotics is about more than just building a robot,” according to john Pendleton. “While one of our goals is to build a competitive robot that we use to compete against kids from all over Virginia, the main goal is provide the youth with opportunities that will help shape their future. Whether our robot wins the competitions or not, the kids learn mechanical/electrical engineering skills, computer programming, 3D Computer Aided Drafting design, website design, marketing, budgeting, public speaking, teamwork and how to conduct themselves as gracious professionals. The math, science and technology theory the kids learn in school can be directly applied to real world situations in the Robotics Lab,” he added.
The local robotics team also participated in many efforts last year to give back to the community that offers support.
For instance, “we participated in the community Green Team trash clean-up day, and picked up 400 pounds of trash, we registered bikers in the Jonathan Bowling Memorial Bike Ride, we packed meals for the Pack Shack and we hosted a Lego League camp at the Reynolds Homestead,” John Pendleton said. “We believe it is not only important to give back to our community but to show our appreciation to the community who has helped to support our program,” he added.
PC Rocket Robotics relies on sponsorships from our community to operate the program and be successful. The team is responsible for creating a budget and then responsibly using the donations received. The team sends out a year end packet to all sponsors, which provides a year end team update and year end financials, accounting for every penny that is donated, according to the Pendletons.
The team again this year sent out nearly 100 sponsorship packets to business owners throughout the county. This year the team received 27 sponsorships. Of those, 12 were considered Bronze level sponsors ($25-$249); there were four Silver level sponsors ($250-$499), three Gold level sponsors ($500-$999) and four Platinum level sponsors ($1000 and up).
“From the sponsorships we received last year, we were able to buy a 3D printer, and this year we were able to print a lot of our own parts for this year’s robot,” Angie Pendleton said. “This is only one example of how sponsorship dollars are spent. It is very expensive to run a robotics team and unlike a school-based team, our program is community based. Therefore, we don’t receive any school funds, etc. We depend on the support of our community and our generous sponsors.”
Sponsorship packets for the 2020-2021 season will be distributed in late summer, she added.
In addition to helms, the Pendletons also thanked other volunteers — Mario Delgado, Fernando Molina and Omar Molina.
“We would also like to thank our sponsors that believed in us enough to support us again this season. Our Platinum Level sponsors are Analog Devices, Inc, Mid-Atlantic Broadband, C & F Bank, Rodney Overby and Solidworks. Our Gold Level sponsors are John and Ann Pendleton; Sarah and Doyle Jordan and Walmart. Our Silver Level sponsors are Vipperman Air Conditioning; Travis and Stacie Jordan; Meadows of Dan Ruritan Club and an anonymous donor,” Angie Pendleton said.
She added that she and her husband hope everyone will attend the open house. It will be held at 137 N. Main Street in Stuart. The entrance, located beside Tom’s Barber Shop, leads downstairs to the lab. A back entrance that is handicap accessible. Those needing the handicap accessible entrance may use the alley beside the Sprint store and park around back. The robotics lab doors are clearly marked.