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County teams compete with underwater robotics

By Macy Reeves

For the FCT


April 16 the University of North Alabama held its first Underwater Robotics Competition. Franklin County had six teams participating – five from Red Bay and one from Tharptown.

“Lee Brownell told us about Underwater Robotics in the fall, but since we just finished rockets, we prepared for this competition in a short amount of time,” said Red Bay High School sponsor Leah Torisky. “We had a week and a half to prepare for the competition, but instead of doing the kit, I let them choose their own design, which was really neat because we came up with all different robots. We tested it and had a lot of failure, so we went back and modified. It will help us in the competition by practicing manipulating things, learning how motors work and how to put things together, better designs and learning not to panic but to modify when there’s a problem.” said high school sponsor Leah Torisky.

This was a first for Red Bay’s new sixth grade robotics team, which is sponsored by Janet Kennedy. However, they performed in the competition with positivity and excitement to learn and compete.

“This is our first competition; this is the beginning,” she said. “We’re very excited. Now that we’ve done it, we understand and we’re ready to go. This will definitely help us prepare for future competitions. Anytime you compete, you’re more prepared and ready to go, and you understand better of what it’s about – not to mention your nerves are calmed.”

Tharptown also competed with one team, made up of girls in seventh through tenth grade, who said they were hopeful and excited to show what they could do. The Tharptown team started last year and is planning on participating in more competitions.

“I brought the core of my robotics team – my leaders – to compete today. We basically came to get a little experience in competing. It will also give us more experience working as a team,” said Tharptown’s sponsor.

The competition was organized by Brownell, who came up with the idea while in a teacher convention in the summer. Each team had to design and build a robot that could succeed in an obstacle course and pipe manipulation course – underwater.

“While I was at Russellville, I did this with my sixth graders during our oceans unit. I knew about it then, and I wanted to do something with it,” said Brownell.

The competition’s pipe manipulation course was one that really made the teams think. Three teams tied for third place on the pipe manipulation course; none of the three teams emerged victorious before the competition had to come to an end.

In first place in the obstacle course was Mahi Mechanics; second was Tiger Shark; and finally third was Fighting Tuna – all three were high school teams from Red Bay. In the pipe manipulation course, first place was Mahi Mechanics and second place was Tharptown. The overall third place was Fighting Tuna. Second place overall was Mahi Mechanics, and the overall champion was Tiger Shark.