Brookside SMART robotics team wows Sheffield Lake seniors

Students from the Sheffield-Sheffield Lake School District showed off some miniature technological marvels as part of the weekly morning series at the Joyce E. Hanks Community Center, 4575 E. Lake Road.

The 12 students make up a large part of Brookside High School’s SMART robotics team, according to club advisor Val Rion.

As a College Credit Plus English teacher for Brookside High and Lorain County Community College, Rion said her husband, Mitch, and sons Alex and Elliot taught her robotics.

“I helped behind the scenes for five years, kind of like my kids,” he said. “They were involved in that, and my husband, Mitch Rion, is the middle adviser.”

Since taking over for Brookside math teacher Kevin Landi, who was the last adviser for the middle and high school, Rion said he has done everything he can to get as much exposure as possible for his teams.

On March 20, the Brookside SMART Robotics Team took over the Hanks Center to the delight of local seniors.

The presentation included robots designed to plow different materials via remote control, as well as one built to play disc golf with foam frisbees.

During the presentation, Rion explained that programming is a big part of the team’s activity, most of which takes place outside of school hours.

“Essentially, you type these commands to (the robot), and if something doesn’t work, you have to go back and change a little number,” he said. “It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time and continuing to try to figure it out, until it actually does what you want it to do.”

According to Rion, the team attends meetings across the state as part of the VEX Robotics competition circuit.

“It’s a club, but it’s a program,” Rion said. “There are three different grades, so we have elementary grades four through six.

“We have a middle school program and a high school program. VEX Robotics runs a worldwide program, so we’re a part of that.”

Rion emphasized that the VEX Robotics competition is truly a worldwide effort, rather than a “World Series” type of event, comprised only of groups from North America.

“We pay to register teams, and then we go to statewide competitions, and then … there’s a state competition to qualify to go to a world-class competition,” he said. “I checked the countries the other day; there is China, Canada, Australia”.

One of Rion’s engineering protégés, Brookside High junior Kathryn Havanec, said it takes a completely different skill set to get any robotics project off the ground.

“It all depends on the team,” said Kathryn, 17. “Our team… each person has a specific role, but we all help each other.

“There are other teams where everyone does absolutely everything.”

Kathryn hopes to study marine biology at the University of South Carolina.

He explained to the Hanks Center attendees that ironically, his role on the robotics team is based on person-to-person communication.

“I’m the communications manager and I also take care of most things when it comes to being on the field with the other teams – strategizing, timing,” Kathryn said.

Rion praised each of his SMART Robotics team members for excelling in the VEX program.

However, one of the high school teams topped the rest and will be representing Sheffield Lake among 800 other teams from all corners of the world next month.

“We had a lot that were very close, but we ended up with a team that will go (to the world championships),” Rion said. “I’m taking them to Dallas at the end of April.

“It’s very good for them.”


Leave a Reply