From left, Horizon Science Academy students Carleage Perez, Kayla Rendon and Jaylin Chen await maintenance on their robot at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.

High School Robodrome Finds Home at Aviation Institute

Published June 13, 2022

The J.E.D.I. Knight from the McKinley Park neighborhood's Horizon Science Academy now swings through a full-sized practice arena for itself and its team of high school roboticists, joined by other school teams from across Chicago.

 
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The competition robot — with a moniker meaning Justice, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion — has enjoyed its new training home thanks to the support of the McKinley Park neighborhood's Aviation Institute of Maintenance, which has been hosting the robot practice arena on weekends this spring.

 
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Members of the Chicago Knights robotics team get their robot ready for the new practice arena at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.Members of the Chicago Knights robotics team get their robot ready for the new practice arena at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance."We can all use it as a practice field," said Carleage Perez, a graduating senior at Horizon Science Academy recognized for her academics and work with the robotics team. She said the arena, which conforms to official competition rules, was a big step up from the smaller space the team had to use at the school gym.

FIRST Robotics Competition

"This would be akin to a basketball team not having access to a full-size court for practice," said Lee Mueller, the executive director for the institute's Chicago campus. He said several schools are now taking advantage of the practice arena, including the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, Lindblom Math and Science Academy, St. Ignatius College Prep and others.

 
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All of the teams take part in the FIRST Robotics Competition program, which sets out rules for teams to build robots within limits and specifications, then has the robots duel head-to-head in the arena delivering a "cargo" of their team's ball color into a central hub, as well as attempting to jump up and swing through a rung-filled hangar area.

Community Engagement

The robot arena at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance gives teams a full-sized practice space that conforms to FIRST Robotics Competition rules.The robot arena at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance gives teams a full-sized practice space that conforms to FIRST Robotics Competition rules.Each robot match lasts 2 minutes, 30 seconds and begins with a 15-second autonomous period where the two competing robots attempt to capture cargo and score without anyone controlling them. Then the teams take over, including a driver who controls the robot remotely and tries to score as many points as possible before time runs out.

 
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The official arena size requires at least 25 feet by 60 feet of space, Mueller said, much too large for many schools, but a great fit for the giant warehouse hangar at the institute. The arena has remained set up through the FIRST Robotics season, Mueller said.

The new arena has been a big help for the Horizon team, titled the FIRST Robotics 5125 Hawks on the Horizon (HOTH) team, Perez said.

"This is about engaging with the community," Mueller said.

Ed. Note: The Aviation Institute of Maintenance is a Sponsor of the McKinley Park News. For information about our operations and policies, see our About Us page and the Letter from the Editor "Building a Trustworthy News Business."


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