Robotics whiz kids compete at Central High

The Robowolves, Techeads, and N.E.R.D.S. were just a few of the bands of young intellectuals that arrived at Central High School on Saturday morning, geared up for a challenge months in the making.

The middle and high school students glided across the school’s gymnasium, delicately carrying their small robots from mini work stations to an engineer’s equivalent of a sporting arena. Referees and all.

Inside the WiFi-enabled field, the idle contraptions of metal and wheels and wires sprung to life as the student-creators lined the perimeter.

“This is their thing – this is their life,” said Michael Johnson, a physics teacher and coach of three teams at Central. ” ‘Robots are life’ is a mantra I hear” often.

The spectacle was the local championship for the Pennsylvania FIRST Tech Challenge, an annual student robotics competition that gives student participants a new task every year.

For the 17 teams this year, mostly from the city, the main objective was to knock down a crutch and release a container of perforated plastic balls. From there, the WiFi-enabled, remote-controlled creations – some also with the ability to move autonomously with sensors – worked to collect the balls and load them into color-coded containers.

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