RoboBlitz Competes for Steampunk Glory
RoboBlitz, the high school-level robotics team of Michigan City sponsored by Safe Harbor, took on their first of many competitions last weekend with their newly-built robot and a powerful steampunk spirit.
The team worked on their robot for six weeks, which is the longest amount of time allotted to teams hoping to compete in this year’s Steam Works competition. This theme is global, so each competition that the team participates in will involve basic steampunk elements. Broken down into its most basic concepts, the Steam Works competition requires robotics teams to shoot wiffle balls (or, as Steam Works calls them, “fuel”) into boilers, which creates a high and low goal. Depending on whether or not a goal is higher or lower, they have different point levels.
The robots must also retrieve gears from a retrieval zone, and those gears are then delivered to team members called “pilots” in an airship located in the middle of the playing field. Those pilots then take the gears from the robots and use them to make four different rotors spin. This is particularly difficult, but, at one point during last weekend’s competition, RoboBlitz managed to make three of the rotors spin. In the last 30 seconds of the game, pilots are to release a customizable rope that the robot climbs. If the robot climbs the rope and hits a pressure pad, then the team gets extra points.
In order to accomplish these different robotic feats, RoboBlitz built a robot capable of throwing “fuel” into the high goal, retrieving gears, and climbing by adding different mechanisms to a frame. The process was arduous, but, after testing several prototypes, RoboBlitz built a robot that was more than ready to face its steampunk competitors.
When the team reached their competition at Harrison High School in Lafayette, IN, members split into three different subteams. The Drive Team piloted the airship and operated the robots, the Pits fixed the robot and made changes, and Scouts sought potential allies that could team-up with RoboBlitz for the elimination rounds.
The team placed 28th out of 38 competitors, so they are still eligible for the state competition depending on their performance at the Mishawaka competition.
MCHS senior and RoboBlitz member of four years, Rishi Verma, is happy with the progress that the team has made throughout his time with the program. The team even helped him solidify his career goals.
“I have always wanted to be an engineer, but I never really knew what that was about. Robotics gave me a real-world view of the engineering process,” said Verma.
Students are exposed to the real-world experiences described by Verma through their use of the AK Smith Center, which gives RoboBlitz free access to all of the tools that the team needs to complete their objectives. The team’s coach, Ralph Gee, who teaches STEM courses at MCHS, also plays a large role in teaching students about the importance of engineering through RoboBlitz.
“Mr. Gee is really knowledgeable on everything about the robot. He is a great person to work with high school students because he was in our shoes not too long ago,” said Verma.
Regardless of their future careers, though, all students are encouraged to get involved with RoboBlitz. The team is proud to offer opportunities for students to gain experience in STEM-related fields along with marketing and other business areas.
As RoboBlitz ventures into its next Steam Works competition, the rest of the wolfpack is eager to hear of their success.
Noah Scherf Maintains Steady View of Athletic and Academic Success
Michigan City High School is home to senior and Paralympic record-breaker Noah Scherf, whose determination and raw talent have given him a unique view of high school athletics. Despite being born legally blind, Scherf has a clear picture of what it takes to succeed athletically and academically.
Late last month, Scherf swam in Chesterton High School’s natatorium and obliterated American Paralympic records in the 50 and 200 breaststroke events, with 200 breaststroke being his favorite event to swim in overall. His time for his 200 IM was only .73 seconds off from beating the record of 2:23.44 as well.
Scherf dove into the MCHS swim team during his freshman year after being encouraged by friends and family to join.
“It became a convenient team to join since I had friends on it,” said Scherf.
His fellow swimmers have made Scherf’s hard work in and out of the pool worthwhile. In fact, one of Scherf’s favorite memories was when David Dueñas swam three events in six minutes at Divisionals. Scherf described Dueñas’ feat as “just the best.”
As his keen athletic ability grew and grew, Scherf realized that he could take his skills to the next level at the Paralympic trials.
“As I developed,” said Scherf, “it became a natural progression to take that next step. I swam 10 times in 3 days [at the trials], and most of those were personal bests.”
Not only does Scherf swim with the wolfpack, but he runs with them as well. Scherf runs long distance with MCHS’s track and cross-country teams. He also played a season of football.
The Paralympic record-breaker would like to give the following advice to any swimmer hoping to better their athletic abilities: “Live in the moment. Two-a-days and winter practices suck. Dryland sucks. Most of the training sucks, but we are only physically capable of that level of training for so long. We need to live in the moment of everything we do.”
Scherf excels in the classroom just as he does with his athletics. He is currently taking four different Advanced Placement classes, with AP European History being his favorite one.
This success stems from Scherf’s ability to adapt to any situation presented to him.
“It can be kind of awkward both practically and socially, but you have to be able to change things on the fly. Experience with whatever environment I'm dealing with helps a lot too. It helps me know where everything is and lets me be comfortable wherever I am,” said Scherf.
After high school, Scherf will attend Earlham College, where he will continue his athletic career and study foreign languages. Scherf currently takes both German and Japanese, stating that the Foreign Language Department is his favorite thing about Michigan City High School.
“MCHS’s foreign language teachers are the bomb,” said Scherf, “I think we have one of the best programs out there.”
Whether he is in the pool, on the track, or in the classroom, Scherf’s view of success is crystal clear.