MC seniors capture first place at Science Olympiad

By on April 12, 2017

 

Robot arms are often used in manufacturing where they may place the windshield on an automobile or weld certain parts. They’re also used in some surgical procedures.

The Science Olympiad competition features a robot arm event. Manheim Central seniors Ben Weaver and Philip Shenk captured first place in the Central Regional Science Olympiad competition at Millersville University on March 25. They also shared a video of their robot arm competition with the school board on March 27.

“A Science Olympiad is one of the most fun non-sport activities to watch,” Weaver said. “There are so many different events, but they’re all focused on STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) areas.”

“We take what we learn in school and apply it solving problems,” Shenk added.

This is the second year that Weaver’s competed on the Science Olympiad team.

“I like the idea of doing science as a competition,” he said, “and although there was a robot arm in last year’s competition, the event is structured differently so you’re trying to solve a different program-that keeps the playing field more even.”

Shenk said that he found out about the team too late last year, so he made a point of being involved this year.

“The recent focus on STEM has helped mainstream science and technology,” said Shenk. “There’s now more of an appreciation for students like us who enjoy those areas.”

The duo began developing their robot arm in September. Weaver explained that most competitors in the robot arm event will use a kit that they modify when constructing the arm. They used an arm they constructed in that fashion for the first two competitions of the year.

“We were in the process of constructing our own robot arm, but it wasn’t ready for those first two competitions,” he said. “Our running joke was ‘it’s almost done.’”

Their customized robot arm uses a joystick-like controller. Some of the aluminum pieces were donated by G3 Automation, while the motor and some other parts are on loan from Sight & Sound Theatres. Weaver and Shenk not only constructed the arm, they also wrote the code for the interface between the controller and the arm.

Weaver stressed that writing that code is Shenk’s area of expertise. He plans to attend the University of Pittsburgh majoring in physics and most likely minoring in computer science. Weaver has narrowed his college choices to two and intends to major in engineering.

The pair also captured a first place in the Barons Invitational, which was held earlier this year at the high school, with the robot arm and two fourth place awards at the Battle of Valley Forge and SOUP: Science Olympiad at the University of Pennsylvania Invitational.

“Without the Science Olympiad, I would not have skills such as carpentry and soldering,” Weaver said.

Members of the Manheim Central Science Olympiad team Benjamin Weaver (left) and Philip Shenk (right) demonstrate the robot arm they constructed. They captured first place in this event in a regional competition on March 25. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

Members of the Manheim Central Science Olympiad team Benjamin Weaver (left) and Philip Shenk (right) demonstrate the robot arm they constructed. They captured first place in this event in a regional competition on March 25. (Photo by Rochelle Shenk)

All told, the team received the following recognition this season:

Battle of Valley Forge Invitational — Robot Arm — Ben Weaver and Phil Shenk — fourth place;

Barons Invitational — Robot Arm — Ben Weaver and Phil Shenk — first place;

Rocks and Minerals — Tim Garner and Kacie Herr — second place;

Remote Sensing — Katrina Shenk and Paige Weaver — second place;

Hovercraft — Gabe Stewart and Nick Thomas — second place;

Experimental Design — Katrina Shenk, Cole Sunderland, Nick Thomas — third place;

Game On – Phil Shenk and Ben Weaver — fifth place;

SOUP: Science Olympiad at University of Pennsylvania Invitational – Robot Arm – Ben Weaver and Phil Shenk – fourth place;

Central Region Competition at Millersville University – sixth place overall team score;

Robot Arm – Ben Weaver and Phil Shenk – first place;

Experimental Design – Katrina Shenk, Cole Sunderland, Leon Ngo – second place;

Material Science – Nick Thomas and Ben Weaver – second place;

Game On – Ben Weaver and Phil Shenk – third place; and

Forensics – Alyssa Fry and Kacie Herr – fourth place.

Renee Kowalchik, Manheim Central chemistry teacher and club advisor, said that the three-year-old team’s sixth place overall finish means that they’ll be competing at the state event on April 29 at Juniata University. This is the first time the team has made it to the state competition.

“The team is really excited,” she said. “However, we are definitely at a disadvantage due to our lack of experience. Many of the teams who compete at the state level have well-established teams with more resources. That said, everyone on the team is working to make sure we are competitive, and we’ve had some practice with this year’s other invitational events, Hopefully, we’ll bring home some medals.”

Ben Weaver and Philip Shenk’s video can be viewed at youtu.be/sItZ6UCmee4.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

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