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About 20 teams test robotics skills at qualifying event at CTC

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Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 4:30 am

When Laryn Brinkman’s brother joined the Army, he wanted to work as a bomb disposal specialist.

“But he didn’t go that route because he thought it was too unsafe,” said Brinkman, a Shoemaker High School senior. “If we can make those jobs safer, a lot more people will be interested in them and we can keep other people safe by providing information through robotics.”

As Brinkman’s interest in real-world applications of computer technology and engineering grew, she enrolled in robotics classes, where she gained hands-on experience designing, building and programming robots.

Brinkman tested those skills Saturday during the Southwest Texas Region First Tech Challenge Robotics Qualifier at Central Texas College.

About 20 Central Texas teams competed in the event, where their robots were required to collect blocks and place them in various scoring bins inside the playing field.

Catlain Melendez, one of Brinkman’s teammates on the "Cyberwolves," said their robot took about four weeks to build.

“I love it a lot. It’s really fun. I like to build robots,” said Melendez, a Shoemaker junior. “It took a lot of patience, working together as a team and gracious professionalism.”

Shoemaker sophomore Theodore Oatman said he enjoys pushing his skills to the limit with each project he works on.

“Most people do not like programming because of the complexity of it and I actually favor it because of that,” he said. “It takes a lot of patience.”

After getting bored in his classes, Oatman was looking for a challenge, so he signed up for robotics his freshman year.

“Since I was about 12 years old, I wanted to be a lawyer, but now I’m considering computer science,” Oatman said. “It’s really influencing my career decisions.”

Brinkman, who was recently accepted into the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin, said she enjoys the camaraderie among engineers.

“It’s not just about if you win first place. It’s also about teamwork,” she said. “It’s not just about the robot; it’s about everybody in the program just making everybody better.”

Although Melendez isn’t sure what she wants to do when she graduates, she recognizes the importance of the work she and her peers are doing as they tweak their robots to perfection.

“The robot can do what a human wouldn’t be able to do because it’s dangerous,” she said. “It’s really cool because robots can save lives.”

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