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Robotics team honors late mentor in contest

May 1, 2013

A team of student engineers at Utica Community Schools are getting ready to kick some ’bot.

A UCS robotics team called Crevolution attended an international FIRST Robotics Competition championship event April 24-27 in St. Louis, Mo. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

During the contest, students build a robot, program its abilities, control it during contests and handle on-the-fly repairs.

Crevolution’s head mentor, Utica Academy for International Studies physics teacher Bryan Battaglia, said he believes that every student could gain by learning robotics on a team, especially when it comes to flexible thinking and problem solving.

“There’s working with a group with a task and completing a mission,” he said. “It’s structure that you can’t get in the classroom.”

Crevolution was formed in 2009, and its 17 current student members come from four high schools in Utica Community Schools. This year, the team finished strongly enough to compete out of state.

In order to compete, the team had only six weeks to design a robot that shoots Frisbees into goals and climbs up a tower. Competing requires outscoring alliances of rival teams, as well as cooperation with fellow student teams.

This year, Crevolution’s entry is a hexagon-shaped robot that stands roughly 30 inches tall and weighs around 105 pounds. Battaglia said it moves through the use of video game controllers. “It travels in speeds in excess of 16 feet per second,” he said.

Battaglia said the students named their creation the A-MAYS-ing Discobolus. Discobolus is derived from the famous Greek sculpture of a discus thrower; the other part of the name is dedicated to Mays Overton, a 27-year-old team mentor who died suddenly March 10.

“It was right after our very first competition this year,” Battaglia said. “He was out jogging, collapsed, and then he was gone.”

Battaglia said Mays had been with Crevolution since it first began. While the death was tough for the team, they decided to keep going and dedicate the latest robot to Mays’ memory.

Ford High School sophomore Leah Harris leads the team’s pit crew. She said the experience has been so positive that she might switch her vocation from teaching to something more mechanical, like engineering.

“I ended up falling in love with it,” she said. “I made sure that we have all the tools so our pit runs smoothly. … We use a lot of wrenches and sockets and stuff.”

According to UCS, the Crevolution robotics team is one of four in the district that recently has been able to advance to an international contest.

Learn more about Utica Community Schools at or by calling (586) 797-1000.

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