Student places eighth in national robotics competition

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SIDNEY — Sidney resident Alex Frohna placed eighth at a Skills USA national robotics and automation competition in Atlanta in June. Frohna and his school partner Deven Abshire had placed first in a state level competition to make it to the national level.

“I felt like I was content with not getting first, second or third. I was happy just to be there,” Frohan said in a recent interview of finishing eighth. “The experience alone is something that I’ll never get again, because it’s a once in a lifetime, thing. So, I’m happy that I was there getting eighth.”

Before making it to the state robotics and automation competition, Frohna was chosen by his Upper Valley Career Center instructor, Connor Keller. Keller tested his entire robotics class to find the two students he thought would make the best team in the state competition.

After testing Frohna was teamed up with Abshire to go to Columbus, Ohio, for the state competition where they programmed a mechanical arm they brought to pick up plastic blocks and put them on a sensor that could detect which of them had a coin inside them. The arm then had to place the block with a coin in it into an area separate from the blocks with no coin.

Frohna and Abshire knew what to expect and were prepared. They were the only duo to finish the programming in the time allowed and they finished it with no mistakes.

Soon after the competition, Frohna told his family about the win.

“My family was pretty happy that I was going to nationals. My mom, especially, she was ecstatic,” Frohna said.

The national competition was a different experience.

Unlike at the state level, competitors were not allowed to use their own robotic arm or programming equipment.

“They gave us robots, like bottom of the line robots, I’ll be honest, they’re not very good,” Frohna said.

They were given a brand of Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) that Frohna had never used before.

The toughest challenge of all for Frohna was the custom relay board they were given. Every year, competitors are given a new custom relay board so that no one can practice with the same relay board and gain an advantage over other groups.

“The robot was tied to the relay board. But we had to tie the relay board into the PLC and the PLC into the robot,” Frohna said. “So it was trying to go all around in a circle. And it was so confusing. To be honest, it was probably the hardest part for me.”

When the smoke cleared, Frohna and Abshire had come in eighth. A duo from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico had come in first.

Despite some frustration with the equipment, Frohna said, “It was a great feeling. Just even getting top 10 was something I’m proud of myself for getting and proud of my teammate.”

According to Frohna “(Keller) said that he was proud of us with what we accomplished throughout the two years that we were with him.”

Frohna has now graduated from Upper Valley Career Center after two years of enrollment. His next step in life will be attending Sinclair and Wright State this coming fall.

After college, he hopes to get a job in the robotics field that will let him travel the country. After he has gotten traveling out of his system, he wants to settle down in one place.

The information that inspired Frohna to start down the field of robotics was when he discovered “that it is the fastest growing industry and that the opportunities that come with it are great. I was about 15 when I learned that and got into it.”

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