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Students Combining Science, Technology, Sports To Create Robots

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Forty-five robots, built by students, will take the floor at the Petersen Events Center March 15.

Winners move on to the First Robotics national competition in Saint Louis. They have six weeks to finish their creations.

"We're either going to replace this small gear with a larger gear, or we're going to flip the two," said Nathan McKerley while examining a partially-constructed robot with fellow seniors Denesha Moorefield and Montario Meggett of City Charter High School in Downtown Pittsburgh.

"There's some stakes to it," McKerley says. "It's not just getting a grade, or it's not just graduation. It's a chance to compete against other teams and showcase what you've learned."

The clock is ticking. They'll load the finished robot into a van on Thursday, March 14, and transport it to Petersen Events Center for two full days of competition.

Meggett says it will have to toss frisbees into goals set up above the floor.

"Shoot the frisbee, how high or low. And move to one side, or another side. Back and forth," Meggett said.

Teacher and robotics coach Marshall Kohnen says the team hopes to match successes of the past. City Charter High School won regional events in 2006 and 2009.

"We bring 100 to 200 underclassmen, ninth, 10th, 11th graders, to the competition," Kohnen says. "And they just go crazy. Dancing, cheering, yelling. It's a really good time."

Classmates pitch in, selling buttons and baked goods, to help pay their team's expenses. It's a feel-good event for teammates and opponents alike.

"The majority of people on the other team you'll probably be in college with, in engineering or something," Nathan McKerley says. "You'll see them again later in life."

Then, perhaps, they'll be working side to side, instead of face to face.

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