Two Piedmont Community College (PCC) robotics teams placed second and third in the SkillsUSA State Conference held April 23-25, 2024 in Greensboro, NC.

With only a week to prepare, Mechatronics students Ethan Oakley and Caleb Pulliam placed second and Derby Harris and Amaree Blackwell placed third in the “Robotics: Urban Search and Rescue” competition as part of the SkillsUSA State Conference. Mechatronics student Benjamin Satterfield assisted both teams.

SkillsUSA is a career and technical student organization for students in trade, technical and skilled service programs. SkillsUSA provides opportunities for students to develop leadership, teamwork, and technical skills through competitions, workshops, and community service projects.

“We were only given a week to complete the project, but the team worked with what we had and completed it just in time,” Harris said. “For the week before the competition, we stayed after class and even went in on Fridays to get the job done. This being our first time at this competition I would say we did a pretty good job. We learned what our robots needed improvement on and experienced better communication between partners.”

According to Chris L. Davis, PCC Instructor/Coordinator, Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum, the robotics teams were given a kit with pieces needed to make the robots but they were not given direction on how to assemble the robots so that they would create their own designs. The robots needed to be able to perform tasks such as reach five inches into a box to grab a wooden block, lift a block nine inches off the ground and open a mailbox. The teams had to keep a detailed record of the entire build process and create an engineering manual describing the full parts list, step-by-step build process, all testing that was done and all modifications to the design with reasons why the modifications were made.

“A lot of work went into designing and building each robot and to see all our hard work payoff is a great feeling,” Pulliam said.

The robots had to pass inspection by SkillsUSA personnel to participate. The teams had to give presentations describing their robot design along with taking a written test on Mechatronics related subjects. The competition consisted of three stages where the robots had to navigate through various obstacle courses with each stage having a different time limit.

“I enjoyed participating in the competition, learning how it is orchestrated from the obstacles, and working with my partner,” Blackwell said.

PCC’s SkillsUSA advisors, Hillary White, PCC Instructor, Criminal Justice Technology and Chris S. Davis, PCC Dean, Business Studies & Emerging Technologies, had originally planned to observe this year’s competition and bring teams next year, but were encouraged by the SkillsUSA NC postsecondary representative to compete. PCC has had SkillsUSA teams in the past, but this was the first time White and Chris S. Davis had been advisors and part of the planning process.

“After talking and observing a few other competitions, we really want to put PCC on the map even more in Skills by bringing other teams, especially since we know what to expect next year,” White said. “Next year we hope to bring Cosmetology and Robotics again. We are also anticipating doing Mechatronics, Criminal Justice, Cybersecurity, Welding, 3D Visualization and Animation, and Drone Piloting, with the potential for others.”

“Being able to compete and get second place in our first year at SkillsUSA was a cool experience,” Oakley said.

“We overcame some issues we ran into, but we placed second and third out of the state which is great,” Satterfield said. “I enjoyed SkillsUSA, I learned a lot from other colleges talking to their peers about how they built their robots and the issues they had so that we could become better for next year.”

Cosmetology student Ayanna Faulkner also participated in the Cosmetology division of the competition. She performed a specialty roller set and was judged on her comb out skills. Faulkner is a first year Cosmetology student and participated in the beginner category. Scores for her portion of the competition were not yet available at the time of publication. 

“It was great to see elementary school and middle school aged kids there and how excited they were about learning and getting excited about their futures,” Faulkner said. “It was a great experience that is also preparing the young generation for the future.”

For more information about PCC’s programs of study, visit www.piedmontcc.edu/programs.  

Holly Foust, Instructor/Coordinator, Cosmetology and Ayanna Faulkner, Cosmetology student

Chris L. Davis, Instructor/Coordinator, Advanced Manufacturing Curriculum; Hillary White, Instructor, Criminal Justice and SkillsUSA Advisor; Holly Foust, Instructor/Coordinator, Cosmetology; Chris S. Davis, Dean, Business Studies & Emerging Technologies and SkillsUSA Advisor

Robotics teams left to right: Amaree Blackwell, Derby Harris, Ethan Oakley, Benjamin Satterfield, Caleb Pulliam

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