Cold Logic brainstorms ideas for upcoming year

Alexia Bain, a sophomore at Marquette Senior High School, poses for a photo over the robot that will be used at an all-female robotics competition set for October at MSHS. Bain is a member of the Cold Logic robotics team, which has been meeting throughout the summer. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — Tuesday’s meeting of the Cold Logic robotics team resembled more of a business meeting than a tinkering session.

However, the team needs to understand the business climate in order to tinker.

The team has been meeting throughout the summer at the Jacobetti Complex at Northern Michigan University in preparation for the new “season” that begins with school.

One of its mentors is Eli Donnell, a former Cold Logic member herself who belonged to the team for four years and served as captain for three. She now is a student at NMU and works for Marquette Area Public Schools.

Donnell said Cold Logic is composed of students from Marquette Senior and Alternative high schools, home schoolers from Marquette and, until it gets its own team, Gwinn Area Community Schools.

The Cold Logic high school team works with the Blackrock Bots, an all-girls team; the Robotic Narwhals from Bothwell Middle School; and the RoboGators, who are North Star Academy middle-schoolers.

“This summer, we’re doing lots of stuff,” Donnell said. “We’re working on our fundraising. The students are also holding workshops based on skill-building for both them as well as community members.”

Tuesday’s meeting involved preparing for an all-girls competition the team is hosting Oct. 6 at Marquette Senior High School.

“The girls will be working on their robot a little bit with the bare-bones robot sitting over there,” Donnell said in reference to “Eugene,” which will be turned into a female robot called “Eugenia.”

Also located in the Jacobetti room where they met Tuesday was what Donnell called the team’s “showy” robot, another “female” robot named Bruce that’s used for demonstrations.

Ever seen the Pixar movie “Finding Nemo”? Bruce is named after the shark, she said.

But why is Bruce a girl?

“We’re not really sure,” Donnell said. “It had something to do with ‘German cars are girls’ so she has to be a girl.”

Bruce plays volleyball, only with a big exercise ball.

Donnell said rollers move the exercise ball into the robot, and then its arm travels up using pneumatic pistons.

“Air pressure pushes it all up, and then she launches it about 6 feet in the air,” she said.

Donnell said the team receives from the company FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — an outer frame, wheels and motors for its robots.

Then the team has to take over with innovations of its own using various parts and pieces.

“Then we have to put it all together from there,” Donnell said.

For example, road signs were used to create Bruce.

Donnell said that every January, all the robotics teams worldwide receive their FIRST Teach Challenges, which are essentially “this is what the robot has to do.” The teams also receive height and weight limits as well as the number of motors they can use and what kinds.

“The kids come up with the design,” Donnell said. “The mentors kind of guide them in the right direction, like, ‘OK, that’s not totally possible.'”

Then the youths build the robot.

The program has been successful enough that former RoboGators and Narwhals who will be freshmen in high school this fall have continued with robotics, and, in fact, have been participating in Cold Logic all summer.

“It’s like the next level, and there’s elementary school teams that do the LEGO robotics and stuff like that,” Donnell said.

One of this year’s Cold Logic members is Alexia Bain, a sophomore at MSHS.

She is involved in creating the new Eugenia.

“It’s the same competition that we did last season, but we’re just rebuilding it to make it how we want it for an all-girls event,” said Bain, who noted the purpose of the October event is to get more girls involved in things like robotics.

That’s not to say the boys will stay uninvolved.

“The boys will just be volunteering and cheering us on,” Bain said.

Regardless of gender, aptitudes vary among the team members.

“Some people are better at coding — making the robots do specific things,” she said. “Some people are better at just figuring out how things would work in the field. Some people are better at just putting things together. It just depends.”

Bain considers herself the “putting-things-together” type.

However, she also performs business-related tasks such as fundraising — an important job since the team has to raise thousands of dollars for its efforts.

That’s why Tuesday’s meeting resembled a business meeting in a way, with members holding various roles, such as research and design, programming events, social media, secretary and others.

Cheryl Bryers, another Cold Logic mentor, has a daughter, Sarah, who is an MSHS junior in charge of dealing with the media for the team.

The team will raise money in various ways, including bagging groceries at Super One Foods and Econo Foods in Marquette, the elder Bryers said.

Members also are writing grants.

“Some of them are very tough to do,” Cheryl Bryers said.

MSHS junior Sawyer Doan is the team’s CEO and team captain.

“I enjoy the process and all the hard work I have to do, and I think it’s fun to watch and see how things turn out if I do things, and if I fail, hey, I get to do it here instead of at a job,” Doan said.

To donate to Cold Logic, Donnell said checks payable to MSHS robotics or Cold Logic can be mailed to the high school at 1203 W. Fair Ave., Marquette, MI 49855.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.