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Robots, mousetraps and banners

SHS students enter national science competition

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Robots, mousetraps and banners

Statesboro High students Georgia Wang, left, and Ricky McCombs were teammates in the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University science contest.

     For Statesboro High junior Ricky McCombs, coming into the auditorium of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for a national competition was a little nerve racking.
    “Yeah, it was a bit intimidating knowing the kind of students we were going up against,” McCombs said. “But at the same time I was pretty confident.”
    McCombs traveled to Daytona Beach, Fla., along with fellow students Jeffrey Li and Georgia Wang for the 33rd annual SECME Summer Institute held at Emory-Riddle earlier this year. Statesboro science teacher Richard McCombs, who was also the team coordinator, accompanied the three students to Daytona. Schools and teams from around the nation competed in three competitions — Robot, mousetrap car and banner.
    SECME stands for Southeastern Consortium of Minorities in Engineering. It is based at Georgia Tech in Atlanta and is a group of universities that work together to increase the pool of African American, Hispanic, Mexican-American, Native American, Pacific Islander and "differently-abled” students, who will complete college studies in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
    Richard McCombs said he has entered teams in the SECME competition before, but never had a team build a robot. So, his son Ricky drew up some schematics and built a robot using a VEX Robotics design system. VEX Robotics sponsors the robot competition in Daytona.
    McCombs built a robot that works sort of like a forklift. It also turned out to be quite a bit smaller than the other robots in the competition.
    “That turned out to work pretty well for us,” McCombs said. “Our robot was much faster and we were able to maneuver around the larger robots.”
    During the competition, the robots pick up objects and try to place them in “goals.” Statesboro's robot performed extremely well in the part of the event. In the end, the team placed third in the robot competition.
    “Considering it was the first time we built a robot, I was very pleased with how we finished,” Richard McCombs said. “We're already planning for next year's event.”
    The team of Ricky McCombs, Jeffrey Li and Georgia Wang also earned sixth place in the Mousetrap car competition. The team used a commercial-bought mousetrap, put wheels on it and a way to propel it forward using the trap's mechanism.
    “You try to make the mousetrap as light as possible and as short as possible,” Li said. “The result was OK, but I know we can do better.”
    In addition, Isaac Betrayar, McCombs, Li and Georgia Wang won a second place trophy at the event for the banner they designed, which heralded “Thinking Outside of the Box.” Betrayar actually moved from the Statesboro area with his parents prior to the competition.
     “The whole experience was a lot of fun,” Richard McCombs said. “I think the students learned a lot, as well. We'll be ready for next year!”
    Roger Allen contributed to this report.

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