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Puyallup robotics team to show off creations at MakerFest

Robots poised roll as Puyallup students prep for MakerFest

Puyallup High robotics club members prepare to show off their multi-level system to build, program and operate robots at the annual MakerFest on Nov. 4.
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Puyallup High robotics club members prepare to show off their multi-level system to build, program and operate robots at the annual MakerFest on Nov. 4.

From a young age, Puyallup High School senior Matthew Hawley loved to figure out how things worked.

His parents would buy him old blenders or vacuum cleaners, and he would disassemble them.

“I’d rip it apart and look at all the components,” Hawley said. “It wasn’t until I was older, 10 or 11, that I learned how to put it all back together.”

Hawley’s curiosity for machines fueled him to join Puyallup High School’s Horns of Havoc Robotics Club as a sophomore. Now, in his last year before graduation, he’s the president of the club.

“This has probably been my favorite experience of high school,” Hawley said.

This has probably been my favorite experience of high school.

Matthew Hawley, president of Horns of Havoc Robotics Club at Puyallup High School

With a roster of about 40 students, Hawley isn’t the only student in the club with a passion for robotics and a knack for problem solving. And on Saturday (Nov. 4), his club will be showing off its creations to the public at MakerFest, a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) event sponsored by the Pierce County Library System, the Puyallup Public Library and the Timberland Regional Library.

Around 50 exhibitors from across the county will be present at the event for hands-on creating. The Pierce County Library System held separate MakerFest and DIYFest (Do It Yourself) events in previous years, drawing hundreds of visitors. This year, the two events were combined to introduce creators to new ways of creating. Around 1,000 people are expected to attend the event.

“It draws people who have an interest in making or DIY,” said Pierce County Library communications director Mary Getchell. “But as (MakerFest) brings in more people, it really opens their eyes.”

“It’s a chance to try out things you’ve never tried before,” added Patty Ross, director of the Puyallup library. “If we can get people down here to learn something, that’s what libraries are all about.”

It’s a chance to try out things you’ve never tried before. If we can get people down here to learn something, that’s what libraries are all about.

Patty Ross, Puyallup Public Library director

Horns of Havoc gets to show of its bots every year at For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition, where students across the world engage in STEM through robotics. School robotics clubs compete with the own robots that they build.

Horns of Havoc is an 8-year-old team that has been competing in FIRST Robotics competitions for years. Every season, at a minimum the team makes it to regionals, which brings together schools across the Pacific Northwest to compete.

In January, the team will receive its challenge and spend the next six weeks building a robot that can take on that challenge. Horns of Havoc will go from its weekly Wednesday meetings to meeting nearly every day. It’s a lot of work, but it also passes in the blink of an eye.

“It feels so fast,” Hawley said. “But we still keep a playful nature throughout the year.”

Find Horns of Havoc Robotics Club at MakerFest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 4) at the Washington State Fair Events Center.

Horns of Havoc has a builders team, a PR and marketing team, a computer aid and design team and a programming team. Each team is essential to putting together its robot, Hawley said. In his three years with the club, he said he’s learned not just a lot about robotics, but what it means to be a team player.

At Puyallup High School, STEM teacher and Horns of Havoc advisor Andy McClure’s classroom provides the club with the equipment it needs to create the robots, from computers to 3-D printers to handsaws and milling machines, capable of warping and carving metal and wood into the pieces they need.

“Each bot has their own personality in a way … you never find (a bot) exactly like yours,” Hawley said.

Right now, the club is working to fashion a bot that would be used specifically for events like MakerFest. The design replicates a Viking boat, evoking the PHS mascot, and just might involve a T-shirt cannon.

At MakerFest, some of the club’s bots will be on display for families and other interested parties to scope out.

I want (the public) to see that this club is all about the ‘Maker’ spirit. We have a problem and we build to solve that problem.

Andy McClure, Puyallup High School teacher

“I want (the public) to see that this club is all about the ‘Maker’ spirit,” McClure said. “We have a problem and we build to solve that problem.”

Not only is the club a good place to make friends and looks good on college applications, it’s also creating a new generation of engineers and problem solvers. Hawley wants to start a club for younger students to experiment with robotics, and said he’s worked with kids in the past.

“They’re just so excited — it’s cool to see how excited they are about the thing they just made,” he said. “It reminds me of when I was younger.”

Hawley said anyone who passes the Horns of Havoc booth on Saturday is invited to ask questions and get involved.

Find the club from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at MakerFest in the Agriplex at the Washington State Fair Events Center in Puyallup, 110 9th Ave SW. For more information and a list of other exhibitors, visit stem.pcls.us/makerfest.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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