FIRST Robotics Competition Team 226 Hammerheads member Elissa Li, a 10th-grader at Troy High School, and her father, Wally Li, watch the team robot ring bells to raise money for the Salvation Army at Oakland Mall Dec. 22.

FIRST Robotics Competition Team 226 Hammerheads member Elissa Li, a 10th-grader at Troy High School, and her father, Wally Li, watch the team robot ring bells to raise money for the Salvation Army at Oakland Mall Dec. 22.

Photo by Donna Dalziel


Robot rings bells for Salvation Army Red Kettle Campaign in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 2, 2019

 Meghana Keeta, a senior at Troy and president of the FIRST Robotics Competition 226 Hammerheads Team, checks out the robot.

Meghana Keeta, a senior at Troy and president of the FIRST Robotics Competition 226 Hammerheads Team, checks out the robot.

Photo by Donna Dalziel

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TROY — The Salvation Army is always looking for volunteers — even of the nonhuman variety.

The robot that the FIRST Robotics Competition Team 226 Hammerheads designed and constructed got the job as a bell ringer at Oakland Mall the last Saturday before Christmas. The team comprises 110 students from Troy High and Troy Athens.

This is the second year the students have made a robot to ring the bell for the Salvation Army at Oakland Mall.

Capt. Peter Mount — a corps officer for the Salvation Army, Royal Oak — said that when the robot took the floor last year, people of all ages who had been hurrying past “stopped dead in their tracks to see the robot ringing the bell.”

“These young adults are showing amazing, innovative things, and also putting that into helping the Salvation Army,” he said. “What’s really cool about this, is that it highlights we’re always looking for volunteers.”

Mount noted that although the red kettles disappear after Christmas, people may donate to the Red Kettle Campaign through the end of January.

John Tu, a physician in the Beaumont Health System and a robotics coach for the Hammerheads, explained that in addition to ringing bells, the robot has an LED display of scrolling holiday messages.

“We try to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to youth,” he said.

He said that the number of youth robotics teams and groups in the Troy School District has increased from 17 in 2016 to 61 this year.

Meghana Keeta, a senior at Troy High School and a team president of the Hammerheads, said the robot rings seven bells, each with a different sound.

“We don’t name the robots. We designate them by projects,” Keeta said.

Keeta said that community outreach is one of the ways the team aims to inspire interest in robotics.

“It (robotics) can be done in middle and elementary school,” she said. “It’s not as hard as it looks. Kids as young as kindergarten can do it.”

“We spent a lot of time on the robot,” said Prathik Murthy, the engineering vice president of the Hammerheads and a junior at Troy High School. “It looks good.”

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