By Charly SHELTON
On Dec. 7, high school teams from around the area met at the Jet Propulsion Lab in La Cañada with a single purpose – to make a robot that flings toilet paper better than even a group of angry high schoolers.
The JPL Invention Challenge has become a tradition for many students and invention enthusiasts. It invites everyone – not just those interested in robotics or engineering – to use their imagination to solve a very “inventive” problem. There is also a division of JPL employees who compete.
This year the toilet paper robot designed by the teams met specific dimensions set by JPL to see which robot could unfurl a thrown toilet paper roll the furthest in a single throw.
Crescenta Valley High School Falkon Robotics Team took part in the challenge, designing a metal-framed robot that launched the toilet paper roll like a catapult, using surgical rubber tubing to propel the arm of the contraption forward. Their overall longest throw out of two tries was 29 feet.
“I’m really happy with what we did, no question,” said Dr. Greg Neat, CVHS robotics team mentor.
CVHS robotics has taken part in this competition since 2004, placing in the competition many times. This time, unfortunately, they did not place. Despite a test launch of about 46 feet during their pre-competition design and build phase, their performance in the competition at 29 feet was just slightly shorter than South Pasadena High, which took third place at 32 feet, 1 inch; Village Christian grabbed second at 33 feet 11 inches; and Monroe Magnet High placed first at 35 feet 5 inches.
“The best part about the invention challenge is that you get to see all the solutions that other teams come up with,” said Falkon team member Tanner Bloks. “We spent three months thinking that our solution was the best way to go about it, but we got to the competition and were impressed with how creative a lot of other team’s devices were this year.”
Although they didn’t place, the team consensus was that they all enjoyed it very much and the group is looking forward to their next project. And they will get a chance to do that project very soon.
On Jan. 5, FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – robotics will release the game for this year’s FIRST competition when high school teams around the world will meet to pit robot against robot in another competition.