by Cliff McCollum
These days, Oreo isn’t just a delicious creme-filled chocolate cookie – it’s the acronym for a new robotics company that’s been started by the more than 20 Opelika High School students – the Opelika Robotics and Engineering Organization.
Their robot, the appropriately-named Cookie I, is designed to be a space elevator that will “provide a safe and efficient method to transport materials,” according to the group’s website, found at http://opelikaschool.wix.com/oreo.
The Cookie I has a fully-usable arm that can be used to grab and move materials. The robot uses a winch system to move up and down the space elevator.
Co-CEOs and sophomores Manan Patel and Keiran Broadley said the main challenge they saw was how to get the robot to climb the 10-foot pole.
“We wanted to have something with spokes,” Broadley said, “but we found out that would be impossible.” Patel nodded in agreement, adding it would have been a “disaster” had they gone through with the idea.
By implementing the winch system, Broadley and Patel said they make use of a nylon rope and two small motors to help move the robot in the way the CEOs and programmers deem the “most efficient.”
While the team has spent hours on research and design for the robot and its platform, the team was still making modifications and necessary changes – even with the looming threat of Saturday’s robotics competition to be held in Smiths Station.
Senior programmer Dakota Ogle spent most of his afternoon Tuesday creating and continuously changing the programs that would be necessary to make the Cookie I be able to do the tasks it claims it can do.
Ogle said he started creating the program Tuesday, claiming the process was an easy setup. Ogle said he and his team had only encountered one problem thus far – a corrupt file that he said would “take five, 10 minutes to fix.”
“The most interesting part has not only been to build the robot, but to work with a team and share ideas,” Ogle said. “Learning to communicate is the thing that helps the most – to share ideas effectively and to put those ideas to the test with teammates. That’s what has helped me the most.”
Throughout the process of developing the robot, programming and design have not been the only focuses for these intrepid students: they have also had a “marketing team” hard work – figuring out a way to market the Cookie I robot.
Ogle said there has been a good deal of collaboration between the marketing and design teams, joking that there was a “constant bombardment” of new ideas and possible tweaks and upgrades to the Cookie I.
Ogle hopes that what he calls “a real-world experience with starting and working at a business” will translate to the collegiate level, as he hopes to pursue a mechanical engineering degree at Auburn upon graduation.
Marketing director and junior Anna Lazenby said her team started out by working on basic items a fledgling company would need – t-shirts and a logo for the company, to name a few, but they’ve recently been working on the exhibition.
“Tim Gore helped us build our booth, and we’ve spent the last two days painting and trying to get it ready for the exhibition,” Lazenby said, hands covered in red paint from a recent second coating to one of the booth’s panels. “We’ve got cups ordered with our O.R.E.O logos, we’ve got fliers and buttons. We’re ready.”
The booth is designed to look like an old-style elevator, attempting to highlight the Cookie I’s usage as a “space elevator.”
While this is the third year the Robotics Club has existed at OHS, students said this year was the first year they have entered this competition.
The students say though they may be the newest competitors, they’re ready for the task.
“We’re going to put our knowledge to the test, and we’re going to win it,” Ogle said, with a smirk. “No matter what problems have come up, we’ve always been able to come together and solve them. We’re a strong team, and that will carry us to victory.”
Students were also quick to thank the local businesses and teachers who have helped sponsor the project.
Donaldson FIltration Solutions, Southern Union State Community College, Viper Motorcycle Company and Hometown Ford all helped sponsor the team financially; science teachers Karen Bush, Kate Madzar, Betsy Gore and Chad Smith all helped advise the team.