What do Michael Jordan and a robot built by Pulaski County School District students have in common?
Both are top-notch basketball players that have come out of retirement for one more shot at glory.
The Southwestern High School Robotics Team competed in an invitational competition in Indianapolis last weekend showcasing a hoops-shooting robot that students at the school constructed themselves last school year.
Called the CAGE Match at Southport (Ind.) High School — that stands for “Cards and Goats Exhibition,” as in the Southport CyberCards and Warren Robotics Digital Goats, not actual animals — the event provided one more opportunity for the local team of mechanically-inclined students (known as Team 3259) to drag out an old friend and put him to work.
The result? Team 3259 won the competition, going up against a field of 31 others from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky.
The robot was a hit back in March at the Smoky Mountains Regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition in Knoxville, Tenn. The team did well enough to move on to the international championship round in St. Louis in April, but left there without the best of tastes in their collective mouth.
“We ended up 68 out of 400 (at internationals),” said Roger Riquelme, a Southwestern teacher who helps head up the program. “It was not as good as we were hoping. Judging from how we were performing and how we performed at the regional level, we should have been much higher.
“We kind of expected more out of ourselves,” he added, noting that technical difficulties with a faulty radio relay prevented them from controlling the robot effectively in St. Louis.
“It’s like a router you might get from Wal-Mart or Office Depot, it just sends signals back and forth,” said Riquelme. “When it’s working, it’s a relatively minor piece, but when it’s not working, it’s a major problem. It would drop signals several times during a match; we ended up having to reboot the robot several times.”