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Robotics whiz kids

Rock Hill High student Jeff Lamberth, a MetalMorphosis robotics team member, works on programming at the Applied Technology Center.
Rock Hill High student Jeff Lamberth, a MetalMorphosis robotics team member, works on programming at the Applied Technology Center.

About six weeks ago, two plastic boxes full of joysticks, control boxes, batteries and motors arrived in the hands of Mack Bailey, a chemistry and pre-engineering teacher at Rock Hill High School.

Now those pieces have been assembled into a robot taller than the group of students who built it.

With the help of mentors such as Bailey, the 15 members of MetalMorphosis, Rock Hill's robotics team, designed and built the robot from scratch.

Today, they will ship their product to Orlando, Fla., where MetalMorphosis will compete against other robotics teams from the region during a competition in mid-March.

"There's a certain amount of success just in making it work no matter how you compete," Bailey said.

During the competition, robots will earn points for picking up a large ball from an overpass that resembles a set of monkey bars, putting the ball back and pushing it around a track. The team that earns the most points will win.

MetalMorphosis will compete again at Clemson University a few weeks later.

The local robotics team has been in existence for seven years. It started out as separate teams at Rock Hill and Northwestern high schools but later combined into one group. Community sponsors help pay for equipment and travel costs.

The team gives students an opportunity to get hands-on engineering experience.

"I love tearing apart stuff and fixing stuff," said Jeff Lamberth, a 16-year-old sophomore at Rock Hill High who joined the team this school year.

"You learn teamwork. You learn how stuff works. A lot of it is problem solving."

'Building season'

Students gather almost every day after school during "building season" in the spring semester in a classroom at the Applied Technology Center. Sketches, parts and tools are scattered across the tables that you have to wear safety goggles to even sit at.

But MetalMorphosis isn't just for self-described technology geeks. Students also can serve on marketing, finance, operations or planning committees, doing everything from making buttons to writing press releases.

For Samantha Sackett, a sophomore at Rock Hill High, the team has given her a chance to become more social and improve her writing skills.

"It's awesome here," she said. "Everyone works together. It's really quiet most of the time and you can actually get what you need done."

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