Robot invasion!

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Teams of robot designers to descend on high school for competition

By John Whitlock

When more than two dozen robots invade Owen County Saturday, they won’t be programmed to shoot ray beams out of their eyes, disintegrate the local population or begin the conquest of Planet Earth.
All these high-tech servants will be asked to do is place beanbags in goals as part of a tournament sponsored by the Owen County High School Technology Students Association.
The tournament will feature 25 teams from across Kentucky and Ohio.
Rusty Wilhoite, Owen County High School engineering and technology teacher and Technology Student Association advisor, said the competition helps teach problem solving, strategy and communication.
“Each team designs a robot that will pick up as many sacks as possible,” Wilhoite said.
Scoring is determined by where and how many sacks are moved. The robots are directed to place the sacks either on a designed section of the floor, a trough that stands about an inch off the ground or a 30-inch tall tower.
For the first 15 seconds of a match, the robots are in “autonomous” mode and depends on its programming to meet its goal. Then, the robots go into “driver control” mode and a student takes charge of the robots and moves the sacks into the goals.
A match lasts about two minutes, Wilhoite said.
One of the unique elements of the tournament is that alliances between the competing teams are required. As the tournament progresses, allies could eventually face each other.
“There is a lot of strategy to who you pick for an alliance,” Wilhoite said. “You have to know who you can trust and work with.”
The high-scoring team moves on throughout the tournament.
The Owen County event will begin at 8 a.m. in the high-school cafeteria and should end around 3:30 p.m.
“It’s free to the public and I hope a lot of people come out to see what we are doing,” Wilhoite said.
Wilhoite said several of the teams, including Owen County’s Thunderstruck 2.2, will use the local tournament as a warm up to international competition.
Later this year, Owen County’s Thunderstruck 2.2 will travel to California to compete on an international stage and compete for a world title.
“They will be facing teams from China, Japan, New Zealand, Mexico, teams from all over the world,” Wilhoite said.
When the Owen County team competes in California, the matches will be streaming live across the Internet. Wilhoite hopes students in Owenton will tune in to support the team.
To help fund the TSA events, the group will be hosting a chili supper Thursday during the boys’ home basketball game from 5 to 7 p.m.
The chili supper will be held in the high school cafeteria and will offer a bowl of chili, sandwich and drink for $5. All proceeds go to support the OCHS TSA Club.
On Saturday, the TSA/VEX Robotics Team will be hosting a spaghetti dinner and dance at the high school. 
The dinner is open to the public and will be held in the cafeteria from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The dance is for students and will be held in the gymnasium from 8 to 11 p.m. Travis Hearne of DJ Heroes will be providing the music.