Robot runs away with check!

February 28, 2008
News 12 at 11

AIKEN, SC. --- National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) contractor Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC, Thursday donated $3,000 to M'Aiken Magic, Aiken County's FIRST high school robotics team, but within seconds, the robot ran away with the check!

It happened in the robotic team's shop at the rear of Aiken High School when the company's Executive Vice President, Dirk Leach, presented the donation that will fund the future engineers at the national FIRST Robotics (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) tournament later this year.

The students work all semester building a robot to perform in competitions and for the last couple of days they have practiced directing it to hold the oversized check, turn and drive away.

"This is an absolutely great group of kids and advisors," said Leach about the students who come together from high schools all around the county in an annual series of competitions to design a robot to compete against hundreds of other teams from the U.S. and abroad.

The Aiken County team, who call themselves M'Aiken Magic, have been highly successful in recent competitions.

"Not only does this team do well against great competition," said Leach, "but I understand that every graduate of this program has enrolled in a science or engineering course of study. We believe very strongly that motivating and educating the next generation of engineers is vital to our company and to our nation."

M'Aiken Magic had already secured funding for preliminary and regional competitions, but when volunteer John Paveglio, vice president of EnergySolutions SRS, realized they did not have the money to go to the nationals he contacted friends at Shaw AREVA MOX Services, LLC, who are building the NNSA's Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility operation at the Savannah River Site.

They agreed to donate $3,000 of the $5,000 the group needs to go to the nationals.

"We saw it immediately as a great opportunity to support the students of our area and to further engineering studies," said Leach.

The team's first test is March 13 - 15 at the Peachtree Regional Competition in Duluth, GA. Two weeks later they will test their robotics skills against stiff competition at the Palmetto Regional Competition at Clemson University.

The FIRST Championship finals will be held April 17 - 19 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The team hopes to qualify for the Championship event from the two regional competitions.

South Aiken High Senior, co-captain and four year M'Aiken Magic member, Katie Scherpenberg, said that although M'Aiken Magic meets at Aiken High School, it is a thoroughly Aiken County team.

"Aiken High has the resources set up, and our coach, Kelly Russell, is a math teacher there, but it's a county-wide team with kids from four Aiken County high schools. Every interested Aiken County high school student is invited to join us."

The FIRST Robotics Competition is a non-profit organization with regional, national and international competitions. FIRST gives students hands-on experience solving real world problems. Students work with industry, community sponsors and parents to brainstorm, design, build, test and compete with their robots in a six week time frame.

The process inspires students to learn more about science, math and technology and to develop an enthusiasm for studies in engineering, the sciences, and design.


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