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Local News

Joliet Cyborgs group unveils Cerberus robot ahead of competition

Work models 'real-life engineering'

JOLIET – Joliet high school students unveiled their latest mechanical creation that will appear in upcoming robotics competitions – Cerberus. 

The Joliet Cyborgs’ robot takes its name from the three-headed hound of Greek mythology because it has three major functions it will need when it competes in the Central Illinois Regional and Midwest Regional FIRST Robotics Competitions in March and April. 

The student team gave a presentation to an audience showcasing those functions Thursday. Cerberus picked up a big plastic gear, picked up and shot whiffle balls and – to the amazement of the audience – climbed up a rope. 

Students put together Cerberus under a tight six-week schedule with limited resources and under strict rules in accordance with the FIRST Robotics Competition. 

Student Nick Machacek, one of the Joliet Cyborgs’ design team leaders, said work on Cerberus was still happening Wednesday, and he was working late on the finishing touches.
“We still have a little bit more time to calibrate everything,” Machacek said. 

Joliet Cyborgs was founded in 2011 and will participate in the Midwest Regional FIRST Robotics Competition for the sixth year in a row.

The team is divided into groups focused on building, programming, design, media and organization. Each group has several student leaders. 

The Midwest Regional FIRST Robotics Competition pairs high school students with mentors to design, build and program a robot to compete in a sports-like event, according to Joliet High School District 204.

The experience of building a robot prepares students for work in the engineering field, said Thomas Connelly, a Joliet Central High School physics and chemistry teacher. 

Connelly is one of many mentors for Joliet Cyborgs. Other teachers, alumni and workers from local companies served as mentors. 

“The whole thought behind it is we want to make this as close to a real-life engineering situation as possible, where you have a deadline, there’s certain specifications you have to meet. ... There’s a price limit, too,” Connelly said.

He said Cerberus is a “really solid robot” and resembles a tank. 

When the 12-volt car battery-powered robot came alive Thursday night, it initially made a whirring noise and scooted around the room. Cerberus first picked up a gear and then started to pick up whiffle balls to shoot. 

After that, the Cyborgs team demonstrated how Cerberus was able to pull on a rope and climb up. The audience clapped when the robot reached the top. 

When asked about the teams’ chances at upcoming competitions, student Jason Kollross, one of the build team leaders of the Joliet Cyborgs, said he was confident because Cerberus’ design has worked well. 

“I think our prospects this year are very good. I think it’s a very well-built robot,” he said.

He said the most challenging part of the project was the shooter and containment components of Cerberus. 

Student Rosie Huerta, a build team leader, said the project was tough, but students received a lot of academic support. The team was able to engage and talk with others at community events as well, she said. 

When the students were creating the robot and applying their knowledge, Huerta said the students were able to narrow their focus in a field that interests them. She said she personally aspires to become an aerospace engineer.

“We’ve been able to find our passion,” she said.

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