Team CHAOS prepares for robotics competition

The Pearl River County robotics team has collected the kit provided by For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, or FIRST, and is preparing for its yearly round of competition, said Maureen Pollitz, the team’s faculty mentor and adviser from the Picayune School District.

Pollitz and several team members and mentors were among the more than 350 students, mentors and officials that gathered at Stennis Space Center for the annual kickoff on Jan. 4, according to a press release from the space center. Similar events were held in 91 cities across the nation and around the world, according to the press release. More than70,000 high school students attended the events, the press release said.

“We’ve already started working on our robot and are doing some prototype testing, Pollitz said.

Pearl River County’s Team CHAOS is preparing for another year of robotic competition in the FIRST program. From left are Mary Pollitz-mentor, Maureen Pollitz-Picayune High mentor,  Alyssa Fuller-PRC, Audrey Lander-PRC mentor, Luc Lagarde-PRC, Matthew Lander-mentor, Patrick Morgan-Picayune High, James Walerius-Picayune High, and David Lander-Lockheed Martin. Submitted photo

Pearl River County’s Team CHAOS is preparing for another year of robotic competition in the FIRST program. From left are Mary Pollitz-mentor, Maureen Pollitz-Picayune High mentor, Alyssa Fuller-PRC, Audrey Lander-PRC mentor, Luc Lagarde-PRC, Matthew Lander-mentor, Patrick Morgan-Picayune High, James Walerius-Picayune High, and David Lander-Lockheed Martin. Submitted photo

She said the team has about 30 members. Anyone interested in joining the team can contact her by emailing pollitzd@bellsouth.net.

The first local competitive event for Team CHAOS is regional competition at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, La., April 3-5, according to the press release. However, the team will first compete in the Orland (Fla.) Regional March 12-15, Pollitz said.

She said the team meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4 p.m. and at 9:30 a.m. on Saturdays in its workshop on the visitors’ side at the Picayune Memorial High School football stadium.

This year’s event is called Aerial Assist and consists of balls two feet in diameter that the robot the team designs and builds must use to score goals and to pass from one robot to another, Pollitz said.

She said Team CHAOS is a Pearl River County team, even though the team meets and works at the PMHS stadium.

“We have team members from Picayune, PRC and home-school students,” Pollitz said.

She said she became involved several years ago and become the faculty mentor/adviser because her son became involved in the robotics competition.

Teams at the competitions not only compete against each other, they form alliances on arriving at the various competitions. This way, two or more teams work together, she said, which is allows for robots to cooperate on the field of play to score points.

In this competition, robots try to toss balls into goals and scoring is based on how many balls can be thrown into the goals during a two-minute-and-30-second match. Additional points are scored by robots working together to score goals and by throwing and catching balls over a truss suspended a little more than five feet above the field of play, according to the press release.

Pollitz said the FIRST competition for high school students isn’t the only robotics program in the Picayune school system. She also works with and advises a FIRST Lego robotics team for students at Nicholson Elementary School.

“We’ve had several students advance from Legos to (the high school) robotics program. Some have even gone on to graduate (from high school), Pollitz said.

The Lego team’s first competition was in December, the Lighthouse Regional in Biloxi, she said. The next competition for the Lego team is state completion in Jackson on March 1, she said. Lego team members are in grades 4th-6th, and all members come from Nicholson. Pollitz is also the mentor/adviser for the Lego team. The school started in the Lego robotics competition in 2006, she said, and that team has earned several awards itself.

“Space is limited and we (the Lego team) meet after school on Mondays,” Pollitz said.

Pollitz said the FIRST team wouldn’t be possible without the sponsors and mentors that have helped it over the years. Two of its mentors, Scott Olive with NASA and Allen Forsman of Aerojet-Rocketdyne, have been with Team CHAOS since its beginning in 2002, she said. Other mentors include Randy Kuhn with Aerojet-Rocketdyne and Brandon Wilson, also from Stennis Space Center, though she couldn’t remember which company he is affiliated with.

She said the team’s major sponsor is NASA-Stennis Space Center. Other sponsors include Lockheed Martin, Mississippi Power Co., A2Research, Heritage Plastics, Picayune Eye Clinic, Coldwell Banker, State Farm-Ted Musgrove, Choice 1 Realty, James Furniture, Autozone, Century 21 Eric Enterprises, Patrick Eck DDS and The First Bank, she said.

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