WENATCHEE -- Deep in the basement of the Chelan County Courthouse, a small group of engineers breathed life into what once was a heap of metal, motors and wire Wednesday night.
Their 5-foot-tall robot lifted its metal arm and telescoped it toward the ceiling. The team of students and mentors gathered around.
The RAMbots have been waiting for this day for six weeks. The new 4-H club has been feverishly working in preparation for a statewide robot tournament March 18 and 19 at the Qwest Field Events Center in Seattle.
The team will face more than 100 other teams at the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition. The judges award teams for creativity, performance, quality and team spirit. Students become eligible for about $14 million in scholarships by working on a team.
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The RAMbots' robot looks similar to a catapult on six wheels. The team controls its movement remotely with joysticks and a programming code they wrote themselves. It runs on battery power. The arm and platform functions are powered by pneumatics, a system of pressurized air.
Earlier that day, a team from the Wenatchee Valley Technical Skills Center worked on its own robot, made from the same kit but with a different strategy in mind. It's a defensive model designed to block other robots.
This year's robot competition will be the Skills Center's third. About 10 students from two classes designed and built it with only the help of their teacher, Ron Craig.
The Skills Center team and the 4-H RAMbots likely will compete against each other at the tournament, but both have helped each other along the way. The Skills Center's coding experts gave a few programming tips to the RAMbots this week. In return, the RAMbots offered to share their basement when the Skills Center closed for a holiday weekend.
The robots have two minutes to hang inflatable tubes on wall pegs. The higher the peg, the more points they get. In the last 15 seconds, each robot will deploy a mini-bot to climb a 10-foot pole.
The deadline is Tuesday. After that, it's hands off until the competition.