GROVE CITY – Josh Craig deftly shifted his body to the left as he gave a hard stare at the course in front of him.
Craig’s teammates screamed support for him as he calmed himself with deep breaths. The referee gave him the signal – he completed the course. There was no doubt this senior from Clarion High School gave it his best.
“I was up until 1 a.m. practicing,’’ he said.
Make no mistake, the Best Robotics competition is serious competition. Grove City College hosted the high school event, which began Friday with teams’ marketing pitches and then on Saturday in obstacle course work.
Teams from as far away as Pittsburgh competed. They are given parts and pieces to create their own robot. But they are allowed to add two pieces of their own, said Phil Rosenstern who volunteers to help the program.
Rosenstern works for Komatsu in Franklin, which develops equipment and robotics for the mining industry.
“We put robots in places which were dangerous to people,’’ he said.
Involved in the program for a number of years, Rosenstern sees a wide variety of students drawn to the program.
“Some students had no idea they would be interested in something like this,’’ he said. “It gives them real practical experience.’’
“This is the fifth time I’ve been in the competition,’’ he said. “I learned a lot about computer programming and engineering.’’
He isn’t exactly sure where his career path will take him.
“But I do know I want to be an engineer,’’ Craig said.
Just walking into the basketball gym where the robots and teams assemble is an experience. Several schools brought in members of their band to play tunes for their teams, while others just scream at the top of their lungs.
The noise is so intense the college hands out ear plugs to keep participants and others safe from ear damage.
Top teams at the local event will head off to Denver later in the year for regional playoffs.
While teams are allowed to have “coaches,’’ all of the work must be performed by the students.
“It’s really an involved program,’’ Rosenstern said. “It’s not very easy for students in their first year.’’
Teams, rather than individual competition, are mandated under the program, said Mchael Steiner, who heads the national program. He attended the Grove City competition, where he motivated students to perform well with cheers of his own.
“In the workplace with robotics, the worst thing you can say is, ‘Let me do it.’” Steiner said. “Everyone has to work as a team to develop the best product they can.’’
Mike Bright, chairman of Grove City College’s department of electrical and computer engineering, helped bring the competition to the college.
“It’s a very holistic view of engineering,’’ he said. “And you know what else? There’s lots of good people involved with this.’’