FORT HOOD, Texas, Jan. 28, 2005 – Early morning on Jan. 8, employees of the Operational Test Command joined students from Shoemaker High School to kick off the planning for the 2005 FIRST Robotics Competition.
The Shoemaker High School robotics team, known as the CyberWolves, participated in the FIRST Robotics Competition for the last five years under the mentorship of command soldiers and employees.
“We’ve tapped into Fort Hood since we’re so close to West Fort Hood,” Nelda Howton, Shoemaker High School principal, said. “There are scientists and engineers to serve as mentors, both contractors and active duty. Also, 75 percent of our students are military dependents.”
Operational Test Command began sponsoring the Shoemaker team in 2000 when Gen. (Ret.) Robert M. Shoemaker, former commander and the school’s namesake, saw this as an opportunity to get kids interested in science and engineering, Sofia Sanchez, the command’s public affairs officer, said.
The competition began when FIRST announced this year’s objective and rules. There is a different objective every year. For example, last year, the robots had to shoot hoops.
This year, the theme is “Triple Play” because the goal is to stack tetrahedrons on a large rectangular field.
Each team receives a kit with the basic parts, but it’s up to the individual teams how they build and program the robots to meet the objective.
The CyberWolves will have six weeks to plan a strategy and build the robot. At the end of the six weeks, the team must send the completed robot to the site of the regional competition.
All of the work is done after school and on weekends at Shoemaker High School.
The Operational Test Command provides approximately 15-25 mentors who volunteer approximately 15 hours per week during the planning and building phase. In addition, a core group of five mentors sees the team through the whole competition process.
Vincente Gonzales, OTC electronics engineer, has been volunteering as a mentor since 2000.
“The best thing is with these high school kids,” Gonzales said. “It motivates them. Sometimes they live in a little world of their peer group and this exposes them to a bigger world. Robotics includes mechanical, electrical and pneumatic systems. Every student has the ability to excel, they learn to work hands-on and make the connections.
“It’s a lot of fun I got hooked,” Gonzales explained. “They (the students) have been taking over more every year. We