BOUNTIFUL — The Tolman basement was a hive of activity, with students sawing through a sheet of plastic in one corner, designing a computer program in another and attaching bumpers to a bulky machine in the middle of it all.
In only six weeks, a team of 12 area students worked to turn a pile of circuit breakers, batteries, nuts, bolts, tubing, wire, cables, electric tape and a netbook into a robot.
It’s a robot that must be able to throw Frisbee discs into designated openings, pick them up and throw them again before climbing a metal tower and hanging on.
The students call themselves “Team Implosion” and are primarily from Woods Cross High, with students from Bountiful High and South Davis Junior High as well.
They are working to prepare for a competition being held by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics.
The founder of the New Hampshire-based organization, Dean Kamen, said he established the organization as a way to celebrate science and technology and encourage young people to become leaders in related fields.
At the Bountiful home, Alia Platt worked to design the arm that would throw the Frisbees.
“It’s a little complicated,” she said. “There are a lot of moving parts.”
Platt is planning to become a mechanical engineer and will begin studies at the University of Utah this fall.
“I enjoy building stuff,” said Jessica Tolman, a junior now in her third year competing in robotics. “Everyone’s putting things together and figuring out how things work Р it’s fun.”
Tolman designed the shooter on the robot. She said she is considering engineering as a career, but is also interested in law.
Team captain Peter Hansen also expressed an interest in pursuing engineering after high school.
The project is challenging, but was going pretty well, he said the day before it was to be wrapped down until the competition.
“I hope it will give me a good start to know some of the preliminary things,” he said.
In the past two competitions, the team, which is affiliated with Woods Cross High, took the Spirit Award for encouraging, cheering and helping other teams.
It’s called “gracious professionalism” in the FIRST community, according to Melanie Haws. Haws and her husband, Terry, coach the team along with Eric Tolman, a lead mentor. Terry Haws is a mechanical engineer, Eric Tolman a software engineer.
“A huge percentage of kids go on to college because of this program,” said Melanie Haws. “It’s a very positive thing to be doing. They’re learning how to apply the things they learn in classes, plus they have deadlines, budgets and they have to be able to solve a problem.”
This is the sixth year the Haws have coached Woods Cross teams. The Woods Cross team is the longest-running in Utah.
The Utah Regional Competition will include 44 teams from around the west as far away as Hawaii. It will be held Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23 at the Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake, West Valley City.
Competitions are free to the public (as is parking), and will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” said Melanie Haws.