Hopkins Technocrats show off robotics skills at Minnesota Capitol

At the invitation of Sen. Melissa Franzen, Hopkins High School’s robotics team, the Technocrats, joined to other west-metro schools for a rotunda exhibition featuring their robot, SpiderBot.
February 27, 2017

The newly-renovated State Capitol rotunda played host to several roving robots Friday, Feb. 24, including Hopkins High School’s latest mechanical creation, SpiderBot. Built over a six-week period, the robot was on display along with robots from Edina and Eden Prairie high schools as part of an event hosted by Sen. Melisa Franzen.

The Hopkins Technocrats brought SpiderBot along to show Sen. Franzen and technology enthusiasts who came to the morning gathering what it can do. The robot is designed to compete in an April competition that has a Steampunk vibe, said science teacher and robotics advisor Alyson Purdy. The game in the competition is to get as much fuel – made of Wiffle Balls – and gears to a steamship in the middle of the field. The robot the Hopkins Technocrats built focuses solely on collecting and delivering gears.

“The robot has a gear that comes off and a shaft that collects the gear,” said the team’s only ninth-grader, Corrine Lowmanstone. “The robot is programmed to drive to a peg, where there is a human player who grabs onto the gear and then releases them.”

And the last 30 seconds of the game, all robots must board the steamship. To accomplish this, the Technocrats, with the help of engineering mentors, created a motor covered in Velcro. When the student drops a rope, the robot must unravel the Velcro, adhere to the rope, and climb it. Head of the robot build, senior Jess Noaman, said while the six-week build time requirement was quick, the bot was recreated almost entirely.

“We had a bot from last year, but I decided we were going to scratch that and we tore it apart,” she said.

A strict rule is in place that team members can only work on the robot when an advisor is present, so work was accomplished after school and during some late evenings. Purdy said the students’ dedication to the program, both in Hopkins and throughout the area, is inspiring.

“They are so collaborative and they learn how to depend on each other and build each other up,” Purdy said. “Robotics is a huge opportunity to teach soft skills – perseverance, planning, and cooperation And the thing we say most often is, ‘Can you figure it out?’ And when they do, there’s nothing better than that.”

The team and their advisor have high hopes for this year as they prepare for competition the first week of April.

“We have a lot of preparation that we have to do yet,” said senior co-captain London Lowmanstone. “We’re still working on training people and making sure everyone knows what’s going on. But I’m proud of where this is at and I’m excited.”

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