Nope, not the Greyhounds, the Eaton Rapids Gearhounds are recognized in this Flashes article. In its fourth season, the Eaton Rapids robotics team made a robot, Twall-E, that has propelled the team to the top of several robotics competitions. Twall-E has rolled, reached, and pulled its way to first place in two district competitions, as well as 24th out of 40 in the state competition.

Katie Sard and Greg Ruhlig are the coaches/supervisors of the high school robotics team. Sard primarily gathers sponsors, schedules events, and organizes the team, while Ruhlig guides the students with design, materials, and construction. The 22-student team, however, takes control in designing its own robot, programming its functions, and constructing the final product. The credit for Twall-E belongs completely to the students, according to Sard.

Constructing the robot takes six weeks after the teams are sent the tasks it will have to perform. After six weeks of construction is bag day, when the students have to put a bag over their finished product. The only other times for adjustment are during brief windows of time before competitions. For the 2017-2018 season robots have to drive themselves, drive via remote control, stack boxes, then pull or climb to a certain height, hence, Twall-E rolls, reaches, and pulls.

Twall-E will make at least one more appearance at a student robotics competition. Although the Gearhounds placed 24th in the state competition in Saginaw, they will continue to the world competition at the Cobo Center in Detroit April 26-28 due to their high rankings in the district competitions. 300 teams will compete at the Detroit competition. 2018 is the first season in which the team has made it to the state competition, let alone the world competition.

“The team is excited,” said Sard.

It’s often written, stated, and debated that robotics/artificial intelligence is the next stage of human evolution. While the two aren’t strictly the same, western society is witnessing the first generations born into a reality where AI and robotics are prevalent, easily accessible, and part of learning curriculums. Robotics teams are one way in which teens tap into this constantly expanding area of science. Participants in robotics teams are future engineers, designers, programmers, and scientists who will create new technology solutions and inventions that will address present and often less thought of problems and needs.

Sard is grateful for the organizations and businesses that invest in these future inventors. GM, Alro Steel, the Eaton Rapids Education Foundation, and others make the Gearhounds and their projects possible. To learn more about the Gearhounds, readers can contact Eaton Rapids High School by calling (517) 663-8155.