What’s better than a T-1000? A Robot named Pork Chop!

By: Hayden Alexander

Have you ever felt the need to construct a 150 pound machine that throws doge balls and chases down anyone who dares to wear yellow? Well the Jenks Robotics team has got you covered. The Robotics team is a STEM(Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) oriented club here at Jenks. Each year students of all grade levels and skills come together to compete in FIRST, a nonprofit group that promotes STEM and engages students from across the globe in robotics with over 679K students participating in competition this year alone. 

“FIRST robotics puts on this competition every year where they make this game where you have lots of different elements that you can design for,” says Chief Engineer Braxton Johnson 12 “whether it’s picking up balls, picking up discs, shooting objects  places, climbing, it’s different every year.”

Braxton Johnson works on the robot whilst wearing his trademark orange.

The Jenks Robotics Team or Team 31 has been competing in FIRST’s robotics competition for many years. 

“We are the oldest continuously operating team in Oklahoma,” says Mr.Chandler, one of the team’s mentors.

Due to COVID-19, the competition had to be held in an online format. Our robotics team was randomly paired with thirty other teams and given a choice between five tasks or games in which their robot would have to accomplish. 

“The game this year was actually a repeat of last year,” says Robotics team president Luke Ivy, 12 “Each section of it is being able to pick up little dodgeball type balls and actually shooting them into variable goals whether they be super tall or lower.”

The team constructed this massive goal to launch the dodge balls through. 

After being given their competition task in late January the team went to work designing their masterpiece. First they had to establish a baseline design spending several weeks on brainstorming and prototyping.

“We use the basic engineering process,” says Ivey, “we define a problem and we design around it.”

After isolating and distributing tasks the team gets down to business. These tasks include; mechanical, electrical, business, and programming. Programming is one of the most integral parts of the robotics process, and  Cora Brown 10, a new member of the team, took on this immense responsibility. 

“When we started the build season they wanted someone to do CAD,” says Brown “I was like I can do CAD so I went ahead and jumped in.”

Cora Brown at the Jenks Robotics showcase.
Photo Credit: Braxton Johnson 

CAD or Computer aided design software allows programmers to design 3D models. The Jenks robotics team’s programmers have to use this software and learn the programming language Java, a difficult challenge to take on.

“Doing the 3D modeling is very difficult,” says Brown.”Like for gears it’s just very difficult to actually put that into the software.”

Despite the difficulties that arise with programming and putting together the final product the process is made much easier by the team’s mentors.

“The mentors that we have are from all engineering backgrounds and they provide us with all the tools, and they teach us everything we need to know,” says Ivey. 

With their mentors to teach them these student engineers completed their robot and learned a great deal in the process.  

“You have to take the time to learn everything,” says Ivey, “but if you’re willing to put forth the effort to learn just building a robot you can do it in a matter of weeks.”

The feat of engineering known as “Pork Chop,” a name chosen more it’s humor than practicality,  could now successfully complete the given task of firing gravity defying doge balls.

Pork Chop fires high speed dodgeballs at the goal.

“Our robot this year is actually able to pick up the dodgeballs and can actually shoot them into  8-foot tall goals from twenty feet out,” says Ivey.

Pork Chop is an interesting robot indeed programmed to track and pick up the yellow color of the dodgeballs without human interference. This has led to some pretty interesting situations. 

Pork Chop tracking and retrieving a hello dodge ball.

If you’re wearing the same colour shirt or anything it will chase you,” says Ivey. “It’s fast so you’ll have to run, we have tried it”

High speed robot chases aside the team competed for multiple rewards including the Chairman’s award, the highest award possible, and awards in other categories. The team didn’t win the Chairman’s award, but they are still awaiting more results.

“We haven’t heard anything about the rewards we submitted,” says Ivey. “We usually go for the Entrepreneurship Award and the Industrial Safety Award.”

With the robot complete and the rest of the results pending all that’s left to do is prepare for next year. With COVID being such a prominent part of our lives for the past year the Robotics team was forced to drastically limit their numbers for safety.

“Last year we were running on average up to forty members coming out to meetings and with sixty members signed up,” says Johnson.

The team plans on returning to normal numbers and recruiting next year for anyone who is interested in learning more about engineering and robotics no prerequisite knowledge required!

“Any intellect level and anybody can join the team,” says Ivey. “It’s a very welcoming team and you’ll be able to learn everything you need to know. It’s just not that hard, It’s just fun.”

According to the team members, there are many things that make the team unique amongst the many teams and clubs that call Jenks Highschool home. 

“The Robotics club is one of the only clubs here at Jenks that offer STEM related activities which are just Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math,” says Ivey. 

The team itself really leans into the concept of hands-on learning and experience.

“Where you are brainstorming ideas, coming up with solutions to your problem, and then actually building it and designing it. You get to have a finished product in your hand that’s really cool.”

The Robotics team adds the final touches to Pork Chop.

Of course you can’t learn if you don’t feel a certain sense of safety and the team works hard to create comfortable conditions for members.

“It’s a pretty friendly relaxed environment,” says Brown. “We make sure that we’re safe, but we have fun while we’re doing the robotics.”

So whether you’re someone who likes to build legos in your spare time or planning to become an aerospace engineer, the Robotics team may be just the place for you to explore your interests. 

If you’re looking to join the robotics team they are located on the second floor of the Math and Science Center and meet Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6pm to 8pm and Saturdays 12pm to 4pm. You can also contact the club sponsor Ms. Ziler or sign up next school year 2021-2022 at schedule pickup. 

Make sure to check out the team’s Tik Tok video on the Jenks Public Schools Tik Tok for cool footage of Pork Chop in action! 

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