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franklin county times

RCS Robotics ready for competition

The RCS Engineering organization is already gearing up for another year of robot building, marketing and competing, especially since their first competition for the new school year is a little more than three weeks away.

RCS Engineering, which is comprised of students in grades 6-12 at both Russellville High School and Russellville Middle School, is an organization students can join if they are interested in engineering or many other jobs, skills or careers in STEM-related fields, which means fields that pertain to science, technology, engineering and math.

“Any fields that are STEM-related are good fields to enter into because there’s such a demand for these types of jobs and the products they offer,” said Lee Brownell, sponsor of RCS Engineering. “But not everyone in the organization is dreaming of being an engineer one day. Some people join because it’s something new and different from a lot of the other clubs, and being part of this organization can also help you with other things, such as socializing, public speaking, professionalism, time management and responsibility.”

RCS Engineering students are currently preparing for their first competition of the year, which will be Nov. 3 at the Muscle Shoals campus of Northwest-Shoals Community College.

The competition is sponsored by BEST Robotics, Inc., which is a non-profit and volunteer-based organization whose purpose is to get middle and high school students interested in the STEM-related fields.

The BEST competition has been around since 1993 and more and more schools have joined the different regions, or “hubs” as they are called in BEST, since that time.

Russellville City Schools became involved in the competition in 2009 through the newly formed Robotics Team, which has now evolved to RCS Engineering.

The competition kicked off on Sept. 22 when teams in the Northwest Alabama “hub” found out what type of problem they would have to solve this year with the help of their robot.

Brownell said the students were instructed to build a robot that would simulate a space elevator.

“In the competition, the students must develop a robot to scale a 10-foot tall pole, take items
up and down the pole and deposit material in a box at the top of the pole,” Brownell said.

“But building the robot is only part of the challenge. On top of that, they must also market their device by creating a trade show booth and a marketing presentation, and all this must be completed within a 42-day timeframe.”

Jose Figueroa, a senior and this year’s CEO of RCS Engineering, said they were already ahead of schedule and he was pleased with the progress they were making.

“We’ve already gotten the robot to scale the pole, we just have to work out some issues and get the timing right,” Figueroa said. “During the competition, we’ll only have a certain amount of time to complete our objectives, so getting the timing right is as important as anything else.”

Joseph Butts, who is also a senior, has only been involved with RCS Engineering for a few weeks but he said he’s already enjoying it.

“It’s neat to build something that will actually work and that will accomplish the objectives you want it to,” Butts said. “It’s good to see your hard work pay off.”

Brownell said the group’s robot will be on display at Regency Square Mall in Florence on Oct. 20 but for those who want to see the group’s hard work closer to home, RCS Engineering will be hosting a Community Night on Oct. 29 at the RMS cafeteria from 6 – 7 p.m.

Brownell said his group will also participate in several more engineering competitions this year including the BEST Robotics, TARC (Team America Rocketry Challenge), The Great Moon Buggy Race and their own Engineering and Design competition.

RCS Engineering is in its fourth year of existence in the Russellville City School System and because they are fairly new and participate in several activities, sponsors are always welcome.

“We would be glad to receive any kind of help we can,” Brownell said. “We want this to be a good organization for these kids and for them to be able to participate in the different competitions because these events are beneficial to them and their futures.”

Anyone interested in sponsoring the RCS Engineering program can contact Brownell at lee.brownell@rcs.k12.al.us.