With a deadline looming, area high schoolers have been busy tweaking and testing their robots.
Warren G. Harding, Girard and Champion high schools in Trumbull County and Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Chaney and Youngstown in Mahoning County are set for the start next month of the 2013 robotic competition season.
Part of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition, the task this year requires each robot to throw a disc a certain distance and height into a goal to earn points. The robot must also climb a pyramid structure and hold itself up off the ground earning 10, 20 and 30 points based on how high the robot climbs.
This year's challenge is dubbed "Ultimate Ascent" and the deadline to complete the robots is today.
In Girard, retired school superintendent Joe Jeswald is among the coaches helping the students.
He said that over the years the robotics program has inspired students to enter careers in engineering.
The Girard RoboCats is marking its 14th year of competing with 40 students on the team. The first regional event for them is March 21.
Sam Horn, a Girard senior, said getting the robot to climb has been the most challenging task. He said the robot has a set of hooks attached to arms that help to pull it up.
Teacher and adviser Ashraf Hadi said getting the robot to climb "has been one of the hardest tasks the robot has ever taken on."
Hadi said he is sure the team will do well and they "intend to get to the top level and earn all points."
Nick DiFabio, a retired General Motors employee and a volunteer, said that every year the students get a lot of experience building and programming the robot to meet the specifications.
The Champion Flashes Lightning Bots is marking its seventh year of competing.
The team started building on the first Saturday in January and has been meeting after school daily and on weekends.
Samantha Young, a senior at Champion, said the team has been through a lot of trial and error.
Delphi Packard employees have volunteered their time as adviser as well as Champion alumni who provide guidance.
Brandon Bosley, a senior, said there are 35 team members, including foreign exchange student Andreas Krainer from Austria.
The team will be competing March 28 in Cleveland at the Buckeye Regional event, and April 3 and 4 at the Midwest Regionals. The national championships are held April 22 in St. Louis.
Bosley and David Sypert, robot team captain, said the team has been successful in past years making it to events in Cleveland, New York and New Hampshire,
"We have been to Cleveland every year,'' Bosley said.
To raise money for the competition, the team is hosting a "Are You Smarter than Robotics Team Member" challenge at 6 p.m. March 1 at Champion High School auditorium. Guests include Miss Ohio Elissa McCracken and local officials competing. Cost is $4 for students and $6 for non-students
Harding High School's team also has been busy the past six weeks.
Last year's Harding team, Delphi E.L.I.T.E. Team, took first place regional finishes in Pittsburgh and Wisconsin, and an overall 41-11 competition record at three regional events, and placed in the top eight in their division in the World Championship in St. Louis.
Delphi has served as the corporate sponsor for the Harding team since its inception 16 years ago, including the 1999 national championship year.
Retired teacher Greg Christman is their team coach / adviser.