The robot that can throw, but not without a full battery

The Plaid Pillager Robotics team made a presentation to the Morris Area School Board members at their meeting on January 23. Eric Buchanan, advisor, and senior Elliot Hanson brought in the robot the team of only five members built last year. The robot was created using criteria and guidelines for competition. For that competition, the robot needed to pick up a ball and throw it into a basket ten feet off the ground.

Hanson began to show the board members how this was done but the robot moved a few feet and then died. The battery was dead. Therefore they went on to explain the steps this team takes each year for their competition. He stated that it is not just about creating a robot for the competition but also the ‘coopertition’ a combination of competition and cooperation, that the students learn. 

Buchanan stated that each year they get a theme and a kit of parts, mostly electronics. The team cannot spend more than $4,000 and no single part can cost over $400. There are also weight and size limits to the robot. He is only there to advise the team members who come up with the plan and carry it out. The team is currently working on a robot for competition in March. The new robot will need to pick up cubes and cones and place them in stacked storage boxes. 

Buchanan thanked the school board for supporting the club and added that the experience the students get is invaluable. There are a lot of different types of students involved in the robot creation process and he is hoping for more members to join the team. 

“This is one of the hidden gems in the school system,” Buchanan explained.

He finished by presenting the board members with a print-out of the energy savings gained by the solar array panels the Plaid Pillagers erected about three years ago. The savings last year was $942. 

The school board members also learned about a couple of unique grants or donations the school recently received. The first was the donation of a half of beef through a Riverview grant. The beef was used for multiple labs and learning opportunities for students. The meat cutting class was able to cut up the meat and learn the different cuts of meat, a couple of classes such as FACS and Special Ed, used it in cooking classes. 

The school received a Lakes Country Service Cooperative grant to purchase a Computer Numerical Control (CNC) router machine outfitted with a spindle head. The value of the machine is $17,000.

A report by board members stated that the electric school bus is still in use with some issues being addressed. The problem has been in getting the technical assistance needed in a consistent manner. Currently the bus is rated at a 5 on a scale of 0-10. However, being one of the first schools to use an electric bus, there is bound to be a learning curve and things should get better. The board gave a big thank you to Deann and Jason for their work and data collection.

The final action of the night was discussion of repair work at the school tennis courts. During the December meeting, the school board heard two different quotes, one that repaired the cracks but gave no guarantees and a second that did the repairs and provided a five year guarantee.

After meeting with the facilities and finance committee it was decided to go with the second proposal for the work and get the five year guarantee. The cost will be $111,290 with Pro Track and Tennis, Inc doing the work. There was also discussion about adding additional courts and possibly working with community partners as planning evolves.

The February school board meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 21 due to the Monday holiday. There will be pictures at 5:15 p.m. with the meeting starting at 5:30 p.m.