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South robotics group engineers success
A number of South Forsyth students placed in events held at the Technology Student Associations state conference. - photo by For the Forsyth County News


One day, their robots may assist in medical procedures.

Earlier this month, however, the robots built by South Forsyth High students just had to put barrels and balls in a basket.

“We had to figure out a way to make a robot get up to certain heights to deposit them into some goals,” said freshman Gabriel Arkanum. “We all just kind of worked together to solve this problem. And in this case, we found a good solution.”

South fielded two of the three first-place robotics teams in the recent Technology Student Association’s state conference.

And the conference consisted of more than the state VEX Robotics Tournament, said South Forsyth High School engineering and technology instructor Nick Crowder, who serves as the TSA adviser and robotics coach.

“It’s about 37 different events of … all different things students compete in,” he said. “It gives them a wider field of competition for students who don’t do robotics. The competition part really encourages students to do their best.”

About 20 of the 50 students from South competed in the robotics portion, Crowder said.

The rest tested their skills in competitions ranging from architectural modeling and video game design to desktop publishing and technological issues debating.

They were assisted by TSA co-advisers Jim Chamberlain and James O’Connor.

Crowder said one student, Akhila Morutra, finished first in desktop publishing.

Students Ben Kitchin, Phillip Laplante and Stephen Williams came in second for systems control technology.

Third-place honors included: Cheyenne Anderson and Sargun Vohra for video game design; Jonathan Meisel for future technology teacher; and Meisel, Duncan Hord and Mackenzie Norfolk for debating technological issues.

“All of these students are wonderful,” Crowder said. “It’s very satisfying as an adviser because they’re doing things that will lead to their success in the future.

“I did athletics, and athletics is fine, but beyond high school, it was just something to do that’s fun. But I think these kinds of activities make kids very well rounded and do lead more to their future endeavors.”

Junior Josh Plotner was thinking about his future when he switched from sports to robotics.

“I played basketball for the first two years in high school and I decided not to do that and get into something that was a little more future oriented,” he said.

“I took a shot in the dark and chose robotics to invest in my time and I ended up really enjoying it.”

Plotner said he was somewhat confident going into the competition. Having gone to a few this year, he said his team was able to modify its design and perfect robot controls.

“I knew we were going to be a good team, but I wasn’t expecting to get first,” Plotner said.

Students from West Forsyth High School also competed in the event, taking home seven top-10 finishes.

South Forsyth was also honored as a top-10 chapter. The students placed eighth in the state for quality of its TSA program.

“The kids came back and were all talking about how much they enjoyed the conference and when they can get started on next year’s projects,” Crowder said. “It’s exciting to see kids that enthusiastic about an academic type of conference.”