Old Colony's Team Rocket blasts off with puzzle-solving robots

May 18, 2018

When members of Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School's robotics club pulled out a robot meant to imitate a guitar, Jake Koczera couldn't resist. "Me, I'll play it!" he said.

The robot was a hit with children at Plumb Memorial Library in Rochester, where "Team Rocket," Old Colony's robotics team, gave a demonstration on May 17. Robotics team members built the robot to imitate a guitar, which uses a sliding piece on the "guitar" neck to determine notes.

Other robots on display included a larger robot with a grabby arm attached (very fun for attacking your friends' legs, it turns out) and one robot that, in a series of flips, could unscramble even the most difficult Rubik's Cube configuration.

"The robot scans all of the colors," explained Team Rocket's adviser Dan Brush, an electronic engineering technology teacher at Old Colony. "Then, it analyzes the colors and works out the motions needed to get all the right colors in the right order."

The school's robotics club has been going for about three years, Brush said. Team members come from every Old Colony technical program, from Culinary Arts to Carpentry, Automotive Technology and Health Careers.

Team Rocket works mainly with robotic tools and pieces from Vex Robotics, an organization meant to introduce students to robotics and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts.

While most funding the club receives is from individual donors, team members said, Team Rocket did recently receive a state grant which allowed the team to invest in a more technologically-advanced robot.

"Look at this guy," Brush said as he pointed out the robot, which balances on two wheels, "like a Segway." The rapid rise of technology is amazing, Brush said. "There's more computing power in this rocket than there was in the computers that landed Apollo 11 on the moon," he said.