Buffs Robotics Boosting into Overdrive

By Brett Marshall

It’s now been six years since the Robotics program at Garden City High School was started under the guidance of Yuriy Drubinskiy.

The Chicago native and graduate of Northern Michigan with an emphasis in mathematics arrived in Garden City seven years to begin his teaching career at GCHS.

A year later, his brainchild of a Robotics program became a reality.

With the assistance of fellow teachers Scott Glass, a science teacher who helped start the program, the faculty involved now includes English teacher Kelly Butcher and Math teacher Lisa Morton.

Now, the program has achieved a high level of success and due recognition, the most recent winning the BEST (Boosting Engineering Science Technology) competition at Wichita State University in mid-October.

Competing against 27 public schools across Kansas, it is the first win for GCHS in this competition and qualified the team for the BEST regional Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 in Ft. Smith, Ark., where they will compete with teams from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, in addition to six teams from Kansas.

“The theme this year was working around the engineering problem of plastic in the ocean,” Drubrinskiy said when describing what his team designed this year.

The team, comprised of 22 students, built a robot that would skim the surface of the ocean and pick up anything plastic. There are multiple components to what the team does, involving groups of different students.

This particular robot is about 2 feet wide and 2 feet long and weighs approximately 23 pounds and is made up of PVC pipe, wood, plywood and wood screws.

“We designed a robot that moves along the water’s surface on a 2×4 (wood) beam and then simulates how much plastic can be cleaned from the water,” Drubrinskiy said.

The first step of the process was to spend about a week brainstorming and creating a cardboard prototype, Drubinskiy said. There was an emphasis on the engineering process, trying to determine how to have the robot be able to move its arm, its claw and the driving aspect of the whole body of the robot.

It took six weeks for the team to build the robot and it had to coincide with a current events theme, thus working on the environmental aspect of cleaning the ocean of plastic waste.

Wichita State is one of 52 hubs across the country that coordinates the national BEST program.

In addition to the actual construction of the robot, the team also had to develop a marketing plan for how to promote the concept.

“How do you sell this to people?” Drubinskiy asked of the marketing plan. “We were able to get first place in this division of the competition. It’s the first time we’ve been able to qualify for the regional.”

The regional competition is the highest level in which the team can participate. The four specific categories in the contest include the robot engineering and construction itself, marketing, the exhibit and then the spirit that the team shows during the competition.

The robot itself has one motor for its main drive, another which pivots the arm, one motor that retracts and extends the arm and another motor that lifts and lowers the arm.

Drubinskiy said that most of the work on the project occurs after school hours due to the limited amount of time in his regular class during normal school hours. He noted that class has just 16 students and the class only runs 50 minutes, and is comprised of sophomores through seniors.

“For me, it’s the fact I enjoy building things,” Drubinskiy said of his interest in robotics.

In 2017, the team constructed a robot to put out fires with the theme as Crossfire. In 2016, the theme was Kansas farming and the team designed a robot to plant seeds.

“It’s always exciting to see what ideas the students can come up with, create a concept and then see the construction come together,” Drubinskiy said. “Then, you’ve got the group who creates the marketing plan and then the actual construction of the robot, so there are many parts of the entire project.”

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