AREVA’s summer high school apprentices compete in the annual SUMO Robot Wars « AREVA Blog – North America


Team Woochuk, Samantha Blanks (left) and Devon Morris (right) pose with their robot after being announced as the winners of Robot Wars.

by Kelsey Massie, AREVA Corporate Communications Intern

Most high school students dread the approaching of summer’s end; however, for 10 Lynchburg, VA area high school students, the end of summer is exactly what they have been waiting for. These 10 students are AREVA’s summer high school apprentices, and for them, the end of summer means war. Robot Wars, that is.

For the past four years, the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Talent Expansion Program Grant funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) has allowed Central Virginia Community College (CVCC) and AREVA to provide a program dedicated to teaching and experiencing the nuclear industry in a unique and dynamic way. The goals of the summer program are to power future leaders and create a local pipeline of engineering talent to fill future job vacancies in our area. AREVA and CVCC are working together to cultivate a new generation of educated and innovative individuals who want to explore the engineering field as a career.

The SUMO Robot Wars is the capstone project for the apprentices. From staying under budget to modifying the robots for competition, the project is solely the students’ undertaking and simulates the conditions engineers work under on a daily basis. This year, five apprentice teams were mentored by AREVA engineering experts. The mentor assigned to each team assisted the students in modifying their stock robots to create the fiercest machine to compete for victory by pushing their opponents outside of the battle ring.

Steve Martin, Project Controls Specialist for Steam Generator Services (SGS), has been the program coordinator for AREVA since 2006. “These are the most amazing robots to date. They have used every aspect of engineering possible: mechanical, electrical, software programming, everything,” Steve said. This year the competition was held at AREVA’s Mill Ridge Road facility in Lynchburg where co-workers, family and friends were encouraged to attend.

For the competition, five teams of two were assembled to compete for an iPod shuffle and a year’s worth of bragging rights. The teams were constructed as follows:

•Team Domination: Grace Bouldin (Temple Christian School)
Ben Peters (Amherst County High School)
AREVA Mentors: Jenna Krotke and Stephanie Bruzek

•Team Pink Beast: Lindsey Pryor (Amherst County High School
Jamie Hamlett (William Campbell High School)
AREVA Mentor: Mark Lowery

•Team Quicksilver: Danielle Montalbano (Brookville High School)
Amir Tabaian (Jefferson Forest High School)
AREVA Mentor: Jared Petrie

•Team Transformer: Faith Bouldin (Temple Christian School)
Crown Ngugi (Liberty Christian Academy)
AREVA Mentor: Paul Childrey

•Team Woochuk: Samantha Blanks (Rustburg High School)
Devon Morris (E.C. Glass High School)
AREVA Mentor: Randy Krotke

This year there was an added twist to the competition, family rivalry. Twin high school apprentices Faith and Grace Bouldin competed on separate teams. “We really wanted to beat each other. Faith would ask what we did to our robot, but I made sure to keep it a secret,” said Grace. Lisa Bouldin, mother of the Bouldin twins, was there to cheer on both her daughters. “It’s going to be hard when they compete against each other. I’m proud of both of them. In my eyes it doesn’t matter who wins,” Lisa said. Faith and her partner Crown, known as Team Transformer, used a white tail as a defensive mechanism to modify their robot as all robots use infrared sensors to sense white and turn around. Grace and her partner Ben, Team Domination, added swiveling metallic arms as a decoy to distract their opponents. In the end, Team Domination’s design out- performed Team Transformer.

With a first-of-a-kind lifting scoop powered by a motor fitted with a limit switch, Devon Morris and Samantha Blanks of Team Woochuk were declared the winners with nine victories in a round robin competition among the five teams. “Our scoop definitely gave us the edge. I learned that there is always more than one solution to a problem,” said Devon. AREVA employee Randy Krotke, a Principle Engineer, acted as Team Woochuk’s mentor. “Being a mentor was challenging but I enjoyed the experience. Given the opportunity, I would love to be a mentor again,” Randy says.

Students’ experiences in the program have led many of the students to pursue a career in the engineering field. “Working at AREVA this summer has opened my eyes to the need for clean power and my desire to pursue a career in the nuclear engineering field,” said Jamie Hamlett.

AREVA has taken a unique approach to bringing young and talented individuals into the nuclear field, and is investing in the best and brightest students in the community in hopes to educate and prepare them to be the next generation of leaders in the nuclear energy industry. “This program is all about ‘growing your own.’ Our goal is to grow our own workforce right here in Central Virginia. What we do is a community service effort for Region 2000. It’s not just a job, it’s an education!” Steve said.

Tags: AREVA Inc., AREVA North America, Devon Morris, Kelsey Massie, Lynchburg, National Science Foundation, Nuclear Energy, Nuclear Power, Robot Wars, Samantha Blanks, STEM Talent Expansion Program Grant, Steve Martin

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