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THS enjoys success at BEST

By Tyler Hargett for the FCT

Technology is constantly evolving. While people mainly hear about the next smartphone or the newest car, Tharptown High School is embracing technology through the science of robotics.

The high school’s robotics team, WildTech, is currently in its second year of operation and has already made great progress.

“We met the first day of school,” said science teacher and team sponsor Marsha Keaton. “We’re lucky to have scheduled a robotics class because I get to see all of my team every day from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.”

Last month, the team competed in the Northwest Alabama Hub of the BEST Robotics Competition, held at Northwest-Shoals Community College in Muscle Shoals. The theme was Bet the Farm and involved creating a robot to do various farming tasks, including operating an irrigation system, penning and feeding pigs, and planting and picking corn. The robot was successful, despite some technical glitches. The team won two first place awards, one second place and overall placed 10th in the competition.

To help build the BEST robot, the team received parts from the Shoals Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the BEST competition. The kit for the robot cost approximately $1,000. Food for the team’s after-school meetings was donated by parents.

As of right now, there is one more planned competition. The Underwater Lions Robotics Competition, sponsored by UNA, will be held in spring 2017. A robot must be created by each team that can perform objectives underwater, such as an obstacle course and pipe manipulation. While the BEST robot was remote-controlled wirelessly, the underwater robot is tethered to a joystick controller.

When the class is not building robots, Keaton finds constructive activities for them to do. So far, they have built a satellite and are now working on a balloon rocket to send the satellite across the lab, which will represent space. There have also been ideas about doing bot fights.

Team CEO Emma Henderson and engineering supervisor Linda Bahena both commented on their successful year and the joy they get from the team. They expressed the pride they feel in accomplishing robotics success.