Meadville Tribune

March 22, 2013

RoboBOTS translates into collegiate-level success for Cochranton grad

By Keith Gushard
Meadville Tribune

MEADVILLE — “It’s given me an edge in college,” Josh Hovis said of his two years of experience with the RoboBOTS competition.

RoboBOTS is a hands-on robot building contest for high school and middle school students that is designed to stimulate interest in technical education careers. Sponsored by the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, RoboBOTS has students design and build 15-pound robots that battle each other.

A 2009 graduate of Cochranton Junior-Senior High School, Hovis is due to graduate this spring from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College with a degree in mechanical engineering technology.

“It’s helped a lot in showing theory versus the practical side of things,” Hovis said of his time spent with the program during his junior and senior years of high school. “When I’ve been studying robotics and materials in college, it’s been made easier because I’ve said to myself ‘I’ve done that before.’”

RoboBOTS taught him how things are made and go together, but it wasn’t always easy, Hovis said.

“When we started out, we didn’t have a clue — we learned by trial and error,” Hovis said with a chuckle. “But, we learned as we went along — what would work and what wouldn’t.”

Hovis said RoboBOTS also taught him and his teammates other things.

“We learned small group communication, scheduling and working together,” he said.

Hovis will take all those skills with him as he heads into the U.S. Army following graduation.

“I do want to get into a manufacturing setting,” Hovis said of his future after the Army.

The local RoboBOTS competition was first held in the spring of 2007 in order to create more interest among students and their parents in technical careers.

Manufacturers both here and around the nation said they are facing a potential skilled labor shortage as an aging workforce starts to retire in the next decade.

It’s important to the future of not only the NTMA, but other manufacturers and industry in general, according to Brian Deane, president of NuTec Tooling Systems of Meadville and the volunteer coordinator for the RoboBOTS program.

“We’re trying to fill the pipeline (with potential workers),” Deane said. “We’re trying to reinforce there are technical-related careers available.”

You can go

The seventh annual RoboBOTS competition, sponsored by the northwestern Pennsylvania chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association, is scheduled for Saturday at Meadville Area Senior High School. Admission is free. Doors open at 8 a.m. with competition beginning at 9.