Rocky Fork Enterprise

Global cooperation is goal of robotics challenge


Gahanna Lincoln High School science teacher Fred Donelson said he hopes the Feb. 4 International Robotics Challenge would set an example of global collaboration and cooperation for the future.

"Politicians from both China and the U.S. have found it difficult to find common ground," Donelson said. "We have two of the biggest economies in the world. I'm telling the students that 20 years down the road, when they're leaders, remember this day and know that we can get along with those on the other side of the ocean. That's the goal."

Ten Chinese students from Beijing, China, arrived last weekend and joined Gahanna robotics students from Donelson's classes to solve a robotics challenge using Lego Mindstorms robots and Hummingbird robotics controller boards.

Students from Mike Kralovic's Chinese language classes also participated as translators.

Sophomore Anthony Condo said it was easier than it could have been, as he doesn't know the Chinese language.

Even with the translators, junior Nathan Alden said, it wasn't easy to know what ideas they were thinking about for the challenge.

"They helped us design a dropper mechanism," he said.

Alden said required tasks of the Lego robot involved dropping a ball into a beaker and shooting a pingpong ball into a larger beaker.

Five integrated teams of about eight to10 students, both Chinese and American, had to decide how to solve the tasks, design robots to do so and then program, test, troubleshoot and compete against each other in the afternoon.

Teams accomplishing the most tasks in the least amount of time won bragging rights.

"In the morning, there were some awkward pauses," Donelson said. "It wasn't so much the cultures but putting two groups together who didn't know each other. They're acting like teenagers. Some are making good efforts at communicating."

Sophomore Nancy Jin said she likes the experience of working with students from another culture.

"This helps improve our abilities and cooperation," she said.

Sophomore Richard Qi said software programming was the most difficult part of the task for him.

Lincoln sophomore Mackenzie Wilson served as a translator for the event, which was held at Clark Hall.

"Their English is quite good," she said. "Some things get lost in translation, but it hasn't been too bad. It has been interesting to see the cultures come together."

Senior Brandon Muschlitz said it was interesting to learn the Chinese thought processes in putting together the robots.

"It has been fun," said Clare Bacon, a senior.

Because she wants to pursue a career in medicine, Bacon said, the creation of robotic arms could be beneficial for her future.

Donelson plans to make the International Robotics Challenge an annual event.

"Hopefully, we will begin a new trend with students so that down the road, there will be leaders in both countries who trust each other and are willing to work together because they already have in the past," he said.

Videos and photos from the event eventually will be posted on Donelson's classroom portal, which is on the school district's website at

In addition to the robotics challenge, visiting Chinese students and teachers stayed with host families throughout the Gahanna-Jefferson school district.

They visited Gahanna City Hall, where they met Mayor Becky Stinchcomb and council president Stephen Renner. They also toured the Ohio State University and spent time at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.