SOUTHINGTON — Stu-dents on The Cyber Knights high school robotics team have been working around the clock to prepare for competitions. Next weekend, 33 teams from across the state, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts will showcase robots and compete for awards at Southington High School.
It is the first time the town has hosted a competition.
“We’re here like 50 hours a week,” said junior Bailey Kahl. “It’s like a full time job for us.”
Students practice in a 4,000-square-foot building at Mohawk Northeast Inc., a construction and engineering company in Plantsville. Al Heinkie, the owner, offered the space and the team transformed it an arena for robots.
Wood planks a little more than a foot tall outline a rectangular area that is filled in with gray padding for the robots to glide over. Toward the back of the arena are three open slots about five feet high that the robot has to shoot a large rubber ball into.
On Thursday night, Robotics Team 3525 from Waterbury visited to practice with The Cyber Knights.
Many teams in surrounding towns have come to use the practice field, said Cyber Knights mentor Sandra Brino.
“Even though they compete against each other, students are stronger if they work together,” Brino said.
“It helps us build stronger bonds,” said Megan Graham, a Cyber Knights senior.
Students from all three Meriden high schools have also used the practice area. Their GUS Robotics team won an Engineering Inspirations Award in a competition in Groton a few weeks ago.
“We call ourselves Cyber-GUS,” said Deb Lint, a GUS mentor. “They’re networking and making connections. And they bring that to the competition. When we’re at competition, everyone helps each other.”
A few weeks ago, The Cyber Knights, also known as Robotics Team 195, unveiled their 120-pound robot called “F-195 Knighthawk.”
Students worked for six weeks to complete it and in the Groton competition, part of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), The Cyber Knights won an Industrial Design Award.
At FIRST competitions the robots put balls in goals in a game called “Aerial Assist.”
The F-195 Knighthawk can glide quickly along the floor while holding a stability-sized ball firmly in between two slightly curved metal pieces. A flat rectangular metal piece on top adds extra firmness. Once the robot grasps the ball it coasts down the playing field and prepares to launch it into one of the goals. A piece inside the robot, acting almost like a sling shot, punches the ball in the air with 170 pounds of force.
The robot is controlled by two joy sticks. One drives the robot while the other controls its arms, intake, raising the ball, and punching the ball into the goals. Four students are on “the drive team” Kahl said, while a few others navigate the controls.
“I’m here every day,” said Michael Bielecki, a senior on the team as he fixed a sensor on the robot. “I do my homework, then I come here.”