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Butler County's great daily newspaper

CWNC students work toward competitions

From left, Anna Rutkowski, Zak Diethorn and Will Liu plan their work as the CWNC robotics team assembles what they hope will be a winning entry in the upcoming FIRST competitions in March.

CRANBERRY TWP — Programming a robot to deliver softball-sized “fuel” cells to a designated area, place rings over pegs and then climb a rope is the easy part. What the robotics club at Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic High School has to do first is build the robot from parts club members make themselves.

Members of the club have been working three hours a day after school since the start of the semester to get their mechanism ready for two competitions in March.

Matt Esser, 17, a junior at CWNC, wouldn't want it any other way.

Esser, the son of Cindy and Scott Esser of Mars, co-founded the 20-member club with his friend Colton Eisenriech.

“We went to St. Kilian's (school) together and when we came to Cardinal Wuerl, since we both are interested in this, we started the club up and we absolutely love it,” said Esser. “We got permission from the principal to go ahead and start up, and the current faculty supports our team.”

The club, dubbed the Trojanators, will need all the support it can get. The club is entered in two robot competitions, one in Ohio and the second at California (Pa.) University.

The competitions are staged by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a not-for-profit public charity designed to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology and to motivate them to pursue education and career opportunities in STEM fields.

Esser said the March competitions don't give the club much time to design a winning robot, fabricate the parts that make the robot, assemble the machine, program it to perform its tasks, and test to see if all the moving parts have come together.

David Yackuboskey, a CWNC physics and computer aided design and drafting instructor who serves as the club's coach, said the robotics club has been using the physics classroom and a workshop to take the robot from blueprints to competition floor.

“There's a chassis we've got to design; we've got to create a parts list,” said Yackuboskey.

He said the club members have divided into four teams: a mechanical/engineering team, a software engineering team, an electrical engineering team and a marketing/branding team.

Esser said to complete all three tasks called for in the competition, the club has designed a 120-pound wheeled robot.“We have a spool-like winch system that will continue to wind rope along the spool to pull the robot up a rope,” said Esser.“My role on the team is project manager to make sure everything goes smoothly and efficiently,” Esser said.This will be the club's third time competing.Esser said that last year, “we did pretty well for a second-year team finishing sixth out of 50 teams in Ohio and eighth out of 52 teams in the second contest.”Esser said he's hoping all the hard work will contribute to his future.“I'm looking to major in computer science or mechanical engineering,” he said.

Matt Esser works on a subassembly of the CWNC robotics club's main chassis as members prepare for two separate robot competitions in March.