GURNEE – The local Dynamic Signals robotics team is headed to a world competition later this month.
From April 27-30, Dynamic Signals will compete with 100 U.S. teams and 20 international teams in a FIRST Tech Challenge competition.
Team members include Gurnee residents, Leo Forney, 14, Alex Kuscsik, 15, and Kevin Martis, 14, along with Kate Thompson, 14, of Johnsburg, Nate Twartock, 14, of Grayslake, and Natalie Koenig, 15, of Lindenhurst, who joined the team a few weeks ago. Koenig will start competing with Dynamic Signals next season.
Dynamic Signals is part of FIRST, the mission of which is “to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders by engaging them in exciting mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership.”
The Dynamic Signals won their way into the world competition by setting a new Illinois state record by scoring 341 points. Average scores at the state competition range from 250 to 300 points, according to the team. The team also won a Motivate Award at the state competition. The team did well at regionals as well, going five and four for the competition, and won an Inspire Award.
The team members said they really enjoy that they are doing something they find entertaining.
Though they all have been interested in science and technology since they were young kids, they said they also see it as something that can benefit them in the future. It has exposed them to a community of kids interested in the same things they are.
“When you go to events, you meet people and you make friends and it’s a tight community,” Thompson said, adding it’s not just about robotics.
According to the FIRST website, the 2015-16 game, FIRST RES-Q, is modeled after rescue situations faced by mountain explorers all over the globe. Robots score points by “resetting” rescue beacons, delivering rescue climbers to a shelter, parking on the mountain and parking in the rescue beacon repair zone or floor goal.
Robots can also score points by retrieving debris from the playing field and placing them in mountain or floor goals, and also by hanging from a pull-up bar during the last 30 seconds of a match.
It took the team months of work to prepare its robot. Leading up to the world competition, they said they are really focused on perfecting the hang so they can score more points.
All of the kids are involved in other activities, but all make time to meet twice a week.
“I think the reason I keep doing it is… it’s really going to benefit me in the future,” Twartock said.
The team, coached by Steve Margis, is not affiliated with a school. Team members said working out of a basement allows them to have a bit more flexibility when it comes to scheduling their meetings and work. The entire team is understanding of each other’s busy schedules, creating a family-like bond.
“It’s great knowing they support me with whatever I do,” Kuscsik said.
Though Dynamic Signals is not currently looking for additional members, one of the things they do is provide outreach events promoting STEM and robotics.
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