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Robots to rumble on Saturday
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Forsyth County News

Emil Decker describes Saturday's robotics workshop at South Forsyth High School as not quite "Robot Wars."

"When folks hear about this workshop, they immediately think, 'Oh, robot wars, robots killing each other,'" said Decker, the Eaglebots team adviser. "Kids want to tear up somebody else's robot, but they don't want somebody to tear up theirs."

Plus, Decker said, they have to reuse many of the parts for the following year's workshops.

"We use these kits over and over again," he said. "It gives the robots the opportunity to push and shove a little bit, but not to totally destroy each other."

The game is "a kind of king-of-the-hill, capture the flag" competition, Decker said, with high schools from across the state pitting table-top sized robots against each other.

The course inside the South gymnasium will be set up as a battleground for the contraptions. An 18-inch hill stands in the middle of the course at a 30-degree angle as the ultimate goal for the robots to climb.

"It's fun to compete," Decker said. "And even if you're sitting on the sidelines, it's fun to watch too."

The workshop is open to the public, with opportunities for visitors to participate. Admission is free, though competing teams pay a $50 entry fee.

"This whole thing should be a riot," said Rick Folea, the head mentor for the Forsyth Alliance.

The Forsyth Alliance and Automation Direct are major sponsors of scholastic robotics teams in Forsyth County.
Folea said Saturday's event will be "half workshop, half tournament ... it's teaching kids the ins and outs and the ups and downs of robotics with a little friendly competition thrown in there."

The robots involved are called VEX robots, which Decker called "Erector Sets on steroids." The event is called the SERVO workshop. A Servo is a hinge-like device used to provide movement in robotics.

"We call it a workshop because 'competition' has that heavy hand of 'I must perform' to it," Decker said.

"This is the kind of thing where everybody helps everybody else out. It's a 'hug fest' of a community when it comes to robotics teams."

Other Forsyth County high schools participating include North and West. Both have been involved with other robotics competitions, but this will be the first "county rivalry competition," Decker said.

The Forsyth Alliance recently donated $2,000 worth of equipment to West, so the school could participate in this particular event.

But South is where school robotics started in the county. Decker said the school assembled a small team about four years ago and went to a national competition. The group took home second place for a VEX robot students made, and "it got people excited throughout the county."