robot puck drop

Seymore, a robot created by Westytek Robotics Club for a 2014 competition, performs the first robotic ceremonial puck drop at a hockey game between the Johns­town Tomahawks and Fairbanks Ice Dogs on Dec. 30. Jacob Hetz (left) of the Ice Dogs and Dakota Menslage of the Tomahawks await the drop.

A club is giving Westmont Hilltop High School students a different way to channel their energy.

Westytek Robotics Club was formed about three years ago and now boasts about 30 students.

The team builds a robot in accordance with guidelines of an annual competition.

The group is the only team in the area registered with For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), the organization that holds the competitions.

According to coach Doug Atterbury, the theme of this year’s competition is “Recycle Rush” which will require students to have their robots moving and stacking recycling bins in under 2 minutes.

The students have about six weeks until their first competition, the Greater Pittsburgh Regional, to design and construct their robot.

Last year, Westmont won that competition with its robot, Seymore, which conducted the first robotic puck drop at a Johnstown Tomahawks hockey game Dec. 30 at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena. The team went to the national competition in Missouri and competed against more than 400 other schools.

The students in the club break into groups that work on several different aspects including business, media and graphics, and mechanics.

Principal Tom Mitchell, former coach of the Westmont team, said any student can gain experience through robotics.

“It’s something I encourage kids to get involved with,” Mitchell said. “There’s kids involved with the building, business and public relations. There’s a role on the team for everyone.”

Senior Edwin Kesslak said working as the club’s business team director has given him skills that he didn’t imagine.

“I’m more interested in what real world experience it gives me,” he said.

Kesslak said his role has enabled him to reach out to local businesses for support.

Junior Katie O’Leary said she didn’t think she would be interested in the group but has benefitted from participating.

“There’s a lot of struggling and persevering and learning from that,” she said.

Kesslak and O’Leary said the group also has taught members the importance of time management and meeting deadlines.

Mitchell said he thinks students benefit by operating in a team environment.

“Schools are for individual success,” he said.

“This is very much a team effort.”

For more information on the group, visit WestyTek Robotics #4547 on Facebook or westy­