Worthington Schools students building skills for career and life on Worbots robotics team

·4 min read
Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Owen Marano (left), lead driver and fabrication lead, pilots Atlas, the Worbots 4145 team's competition robot from 2020, as Kilbourne senior George Fang, programmer, and Kilbourne sophomore Braylee Hsu, business and marketing lead, look on during a demonstration Jan. 25 at Kilbourne. The team includes students from both Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington High School.
Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Owen Marano (left), lead driver and fabrication lead, pilots Atlas, the Worbots 4145 team's competition robot from 2020, as Kilbourne senior George Fang, programmer, and Kilbourne sophomore Braylee Hsu, business and marketing lead, look on during a demonstration Jan. 25 at Kilbourne. The team includes students from both Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington High School.

Four days a week after school and on Saturdays, a group of students from Worthington Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington high schools make their way to a workshop at Kilbourne.

There, instead of playing sports or instruments or doing other extracurricular activities, they build robots.

The 43 students comprise Worbots 4145, a Worthington Schools robotics team that builds and programs robots to compete in annual international FIRST Robotics Competition events, which draw thousands of robotics teams and high schoolers from around the world.

Kathryn Strous, a Thomas Worthington High School senior, sketches out the floor plans of the Worbots 4145 practice arena for strategizing Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School. The competitive robotics team includes students from both Thomas and Kilbourne.
Kathryn Strous, a Thomas Worthington High School senior, sketches out the floor plans of the Worbots 4145 practice arena for strategizing Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School. The competitive robotics team includes students from both Thomas and Kilbourne.

"It's a lot of fun; it's pretty competitive," said Tom Karns, a STEM teacher at Worthington Schools who has been running the program since it was founded a decade ago. "It's actually considered to be the sport of the mind."

One of the Worbots 4145 students is Owen Marano, a Kilbourne junior in his third year with the team. Marano is the fabrication lead who heads the development of the team's robots; he also serves as the driver.

“I’ve learned so much about the whole building aspect of the robot,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot about the engineering process that we focus heavily on.

“We start with an initial design and move onto prototyping and final build. And we just test it further and try to keep improving. It’s kind of helped me learn you can always continue to do better, and there’s no one great solution.”

Worbots 4145 was launched in 2012 with fewer than a dozen members and limited resources, according to its website, worbots4145.org. Since then, the group has increased in size and capabilities and has experienced success, having won the FIRST Buckeye regional event in 2018 and 2019.

The Worbots 4145 robotics team's 2020 competition robot, Atlas, fires balls into a basket at the team's practice arena Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School.
The Worbots 4145 robotics team's 2020 competition robot, Atlas, fires balls into a basket at the team's practice arena Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School.

This year, the team is lined up to compete at regional competitions at the California University of Pennsylvania from March 16-19, at the Cleveland State University Wolstein Center from March 23-26 and at the University of Illinois Chicago from April 6-9.

If the team performs well, it will compete in the world championship at the University of Houston in Texas from April 20-23.

Each competition takes place on a court where robots have to complete such feats as shooting oversized tennis balls into a large hub and traversing a set of metal bars akin to monkey bars on what is termed a hangar, according to a FIRST Robotics Youtube video describing the competition.

At each contest, three Worthington students are matched up with two teams of three students from other schools to create a nine-person team, and they then compete against another nine-person team on the playing field.

“It’s not easy – there’s about 60 teams at each event,” Karns said. "You roll in there, and every game you play you play (is) with someone different. And what’s interesting is the people you just played with, they’re on the other team the next time.”

Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Owen Marano (left), lead driver and fabrication lead, pilots Atlas, the Worbots 4145 team's competition robot from 2020, as Kilbourne senior George Fang, programmer, and Kilbourne sophomore Braylee Hsu, business and marketing lead, look on during a demonstration Jan. 25 at Kilbourne. The team includes students from both Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington High School.
Worthington Kilbourne High School junior Owen Marano (left), lead driver and fabrication lead, pilots Atlas, the Worbots 4145 team's competition robot from 2020, as Kilbourne senior George Fang, programmer, and Kilbourne sophomore Braylee Hsu, business and marketing lead, look on during a demonstration Jan. 25 at Kilbourne. The team includes students from both Kilbourne and Thomas Worthington High School.

The students build and program Worbots’ robots, including a large, complicated build named Atlas that is programmed to shoot tennis balls into a bucket.

They include Tyler Zupfer, a senior at Thomas in his fourth year with Worbots 4145 who serves as the assistant program lead.

“I’ve learned not only a lot of programming and software skills, but I’ve also learned how a lot of the electrical and electrical mechanical aspects interface with a lot of that,” he said.

The robots and the program itself aren’t cheap.

Karns said in the 2019 season, FIRST Robotics teams were permitted to spend up to $4,000 overall on their projects. That figure was increased to $5,000 in the 2020 season.

This year, Karns said, teams are permitted to spend up to $600 per individual part, but there’s no limit to how much they can spend.

The Worbots 4145 robotics team's 2020 competition robot, Atlas, is shown in the team's practice arena Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School.
The Worbots 4145 robotics team's 2020 competition robot, Atlas, is shown in the team's practice arena Jan. 25 at Worthington Kilbourne High School.

There’s where business outreach and corporate sponsorships come in.

Braylee Hsu, a junior at Thomas in her second year with Worbots 4145, works on business outreach and securing sponsorships for the team and works on such community outreach efforts as a food drive planned in the coming weeks.

Hsu said she has worked this year to acquire sponsorships from ATS Ohio and Lake Shore Cryotronics.

“It’s taught me how to interact with other businesses, and how to reach out to these people,” she said. “And get to know my team and understand our strengths and weaknesses so I can communicate with others, ‘This is what we’re doing, and this is how we can make our community better.'"

The work during their extracurricular time develops STEM and business skills for the students, Marano said.

And if all goes according to plan, they’ll win more FIRST Robotics accolades this year to show their efforts, he said.

“I think it really helps the students and our team to prepare for what’s ahead,” Marano said. “Around 90-95% of the kids that do our program go into engineering.”

For more information on the Worbots team, go to worbots4145.org.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve

This article originally appeared on ThisWeek: Worthington Schools students building skills for career and life on Worbots robotics team

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