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Gainesville High robotics club finds success after only 1 year
Members of the Gainesville High School Robotics Alliance begin building robots after school Tuesday afternoon. Seniors Joshua Robinson, right, and Christian Velasquez work together on the design aspects of their machine. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Only a year after its inception, Gainesville High School’s Robotics Alliance is already competing with other science, technology, engineering and math groups in the state.

Next month, the nine-member after-school club will travel to Savannah to accept an honorable mention in the first annual S.T.E.M. Education Awards, sponsored by the Technology Association of Georgia.

And accolades are fine, the group said, but its goal is to start making waves at the robotics competitions, starting with Georgia’s BEST Robotics competition on Oct. 20, followed by the VEX Robotics competition the next week.

Joshua Robinson, a senior, was the catalyst to starting the club after his uncle turned him on to robotics in an attempt to get him to make better grades.

Turns out, it was all Robinson needed. Since then, he’s been pitching the group to potential donors and businesses to fund the club, while honing his construction skills.

“They say it’s the hardest fun you’ll ever have,” he said.  “This is very hard, but at the same time you’ll see people smiling.”

Robinson will be competing in the VEX competition this year and said his goal is to automate the robot to complete the task of picking up a beanbag and dropping it into a trough more than a foot off the ground.

And while the students are designing and tweaking their robots, advisers Dave Head and Nantheyyen  Ramachandran say they are learning a lot more than just how to make a piece of metal complete a task.

“There’s a lot of hard work involved in it and you learn new things by making mistakes,” said Ramachandran. “When you make a mistake you rectify the problem. ... So that’s the same thing in life. You have a problem and then you solve the problem.”

Head is a math teacher, while Ramachandran teaches physics, and both said the club aligns with what S.T.E.M. programs push for: learning science and math through hands-on activities.

“It gives them some motivation and it gives them some hands-on experience with some things,” said Head. “It gives them a place where they can express themselves and even if they’re wrong, they’re right. Because when you do something wrong, you discover how to do it right.”

Since last year, the group has added three freshmen, and Head thinks the growing popularity of the club can and will continue.

“The growth is going to be there,” he said. “Our handicap will be the facilities and (spending) cap because these things cost a lot of money.”

Even students who may not have joined without the influence of parents find the club is worth the time.
“I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it at first,” said Laramy Head, junior and daughter of Dave Head.  

“But it’s fun and I like doing it. ... It’s not like other clubs ... where you have to be a certain way, because if you mess up, it’s OK.”

The club will compete at Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta on Oct. 20 and then at Cross Keys High School in Atlanta on Oct. 27.

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