Last week, students from Pine Richland High School took home the 2016 National Robotics League Competition title. Keep reading to learn more about their Inventionland tour.

You might recall from a previous blog that the National Robotics League (NRL) Competition’s trophies were made by none other than Inventionland’s own, Michael “Spicy!”

The grand champion trophy weighed in at a whopping 57 pounds and the innovative group of students who won made their way to our invention factory to pick up their hardware!

It was a tough battle at the NRL Competition and it turns out that the winning Pine Richland High School students didn’t know they won the top honors until after they got home from the competition!

“We didn’t know we won until around 10 p.m. that night. It was a fun surprise in the morning!” said the only female member of the winning team, who served as the group’s project manager.

Pine Richland - 2016 NRL Competition

The students were led by instructor Evan Clark, who teaches a variety of robotics, engineering and technology classes at Pine Richland High School. Clark found it to be even better that his students took home top honors at his alma mater, California University of Pennsylvania!

What’s more is that the victory was the first year that Pine Richland students participated in the 15-pound bot competition – That’s one way to make a debut!

“It felt great! We took away [Plum High School’s] title,” one of the students said excitedly in the spirit of good competition.

But, Clark said that the 2016 National Robotics League Competition was about more than just the accolades.

“Just in our first year of doing this, it’s…most rewarding for the hard work that was put in,” said Clark. “It’s definitely nice to network and share ideas [with other schools/groups]. I find that in sharing the info I know, you get a lot more help and respect in return. That’s what it’s about – helping kids to learn, which is the final outcome that matters. You can get a lot further if you collaborate and work with someone.”

It was with this collaborative spirit, paired with great effort, that the students were able to complete their robot.

“Being that it was the first year doing the competition, finishing where we did in the preliminaries, we were really happy and excited to continue on to the 15-pound bot competition,” said Clark. “They put all their effort into the 15-pound bot.”

Pine Richland - 2016 NRL Competition

Through their hard work and determination, the students were able to learn a lot about the manufacturing process and that’s something that NRL Director of Youth Engagement Bill Padnos said that the competition is designed to do.

“We want students to realize that manufacturing is a valuable career option from seeing this,” said Padnos. “The goal of the program itself is that every student considers manufacturing as a viable career option. The key for the program is we try to connect the students to at least one industry adviser so they can make that connection and go on a tour of the facility to see what manufacturing is all about and really take those myths away about what people think about manufacturing. That has led to job opportunities as well and even full-fledged apprenticeship programs. We would love someone from [Inventionland] to walk through the pits [at the competition] and hand out cards and offer kids a job, internship, etc.”

Clark noted that manufacturing and several other STEM-based career options piqued the interest of his students.

“From the design, to making the parts and then testing it, students participate in all aspects, which helps them realize what direction they may like to go in. Do they like designing and creating? Or the manufacturing or assembling of the bot? Everyone loves testing it. That’s the best part!” said Clark among the group of students, who would certainly agree.

“We also learned a lot about the engineering method and design process. You can’t substitute for real-life testing!” said the students.

The Pine Richland students also made mention that creating their 15-pound bot was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun, too!

“We started at the beginning of the school year. The program itself is a year-long program if it’s done right… From research to designing to materials, our key thing is we want it to be so students can do other stuff; this isn’t their whole life – up until the new competition,” said Clark, noting the competition becomes a top priority for his students.

With courses in the Pine Richland already has a new capstone course through the approval stage, focused on Engineering, Designing and Developing (EDD), set to launch next year – sure to be valuable knowledge and hands-on learning for students interested in building anything, including bots!

“This is a program we want to make a top priority to stay in,” said Clark. “And having a lot of the equipment now to do things in-house [at Pine Richland] really makes it nice, because we’re not reliant on a lot of companies to wait for things and get back to them. If we want to make something, we can. Right after the preliminaries, we were able to make our bot in a quick amount of time. A lot of other schools don’t have the technology to do that.”

Pine Richland - 2016 NRL Competition

Victory is sweet and the Pine Richland students also got a great taste of technology during their tour of Inventionland.

“It was nice for me to see a company that didn’t do just one specific task. You have the whole of everything here, so someone working [at Inventionland] has everything they need right here. Equipment, parts – it’s all right here,” said one student and his teacher agreed.

“The atmosphere in here really drives and helps to promote creativity; it’s kind of a relaxing environment,” said Clark, whose students may have enjoyed a relaxing tour at Inventionland, but do not plan on relaxing their efforts when it comes to creating a bot for next year’s NRL Competition.

“We learned not to procrastinate, because this should have taken us up to an entire year,” said one student, while another agreed that “Time and project management was huge.” 

Pine Richland - 2016 NRL Competition

All in all, it was an awesome Inventionland visit for these young creators from Pine Richland High School, who capped their tour off by receiving their 57-pound National Robotics League Competition trophy from Inventionland founder and CEO George Davison!

Copyright Inventionland, 2016