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Engineering the future: Bridgeport robotics team heads to Texas BEST

Published Saturday, November 17, 2018
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Besting Texas

BESTING TEXAS – Bridgeport Engineering students tinker on their award-winning robot ahead of the Texas BEST robotics competition at Bridgeport High School. The team includes Emily Casper, Cody Coleman, Caleb DelAngel, Brandon Griffin, Michael Guiterrez, Seguin Hernandez, Jimmy McDaniel, Colt Miles, Aaron Quiroz, John Sanders and Gracie Williams. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

The Bridgeport High School Engineering team hasn’t agreed on a name for their little robot that could, but they agree on one thing. Their claw chomping, ping pong ball gathering, hand operated machine could be the BEST robot in Texas.

The robot known as Poseidon/Neptune/Erika/Bertha is a frontrunner in the upcoming Texas BEST, the state robotics contest in Frisco. The event doubles as a regional contest for national robotic competition.

Bridgeport’s robotics machine qualified after outclassing the competition Oct. 20, taking first overall out of 11 schools in the UNT Coliseum at the Denton County BEST contest.

Bot Storming

BOT-STORMING – The Bridgeport students spent countless hours developing their robot, which simulates a solution to the ocean pollution problem. The robot will be tested Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Texas BEST robotics competition in Frisco. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Each team was given the same materials and time to prepare. Only Bridgeport’s machine functioned and functioned well, rolling down the wooden 2×4 and scooping up claw-full after claw-full of ping pong balls and debris.

“This test is the hardest test of all of them,” said Stuart Highlander, Bridgeport’s longtime robotics coach.

The Texas BEST competition will take place Nov. 29 to Dec. 1. Bridgeport has qualified for Texas BEST four of the last five years.

The test for their robot isn’t gauging combat skills for world domination a la the Terminator movie. In Bridgeport, high school students are figuring out ways to take their robots and make the world a better place.

Their robot is tasked with a simulation to combat ocean pollution, in particular combating the “great Pacific garbage patch” which has an estimated 11 million tons of persistent pollutants in the Pacific Ocean.

“We wanted to take on a real world problem,” Bridgeport junior Colt Miles said.

The students spent countless hours brainstorming and tinkering on the project and will do so up until the state competition, Miles said.

For them, it’s not just a project.

“We’re a team,” Bridgeport junior Emily Casper said.

Beyond the competition and the accolades the team has racked up, Highlander said the camaraderie and memories are what’s so cool to see. Highlander taught robotics at Bridgeport from 1996 until 2002. After a 12-year hiatus he came back to teach at Bridgeport.

Highlander recently checked in on former students who filled out a questionnaire about their time in the robotics club.

Most of them were still engineering but working for the U.S. Navy, Air Force and other major companies.

Highlander said the former engineering teams learned a lot and picked up acumen that set them up for their future.

“Being part of the team,” Highlander said. “That’s what struck me the most from what I found.”

And for the current team, which will all likely return next year since none are seniors, it’s largely the same. They’re having fun learning about robots and engineering.

Casper said she’s learned how to program in the past year through her work on the team.

“I’ve always really liked robotics,” Casper said. “We learn how to build and overcome mistakes. We do it together.”

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