Nicolet's 'Robot Yount' will throw first pitch at Brewers game

VIDEO: A preview of Nicolet's first pitching throwing robot, dubbed "Robot Yount" by the students who built it.

Sept. 3, 2014

Glendale — Throwing out the first pitch at Miller Park is an emotional, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for any Milwaukee Brewers fan.

Those emotions won't play a role in the honorary first pitch at the game Saturday, Sept. 6, though, as the team invites its first robot to throw out the first pitch before the Brewers-Cardinals game.

The robot was created by 26 students on Nicolet's robotic team, who will get to see the fruits of their collective labor pay off as their wireless robot — known as "Robot Yount" — throws a perfectly-calibrated 65 mile-per-hour pitch over home plate.

"It's not as fast as a major league pitch, but it throws a pretty strong sinker," said Adam Thiel, a Nicolet teacher who started the school's robotics program five years ago.

Nicolet is one of 30 schools in the state to offer a robotics program, and the only school in the North Shore suburbs. The robotics team — called F.E.A.R, as in Future Engineers of American Robotics — has grown rapidly since it formed in 2012. Last year, in the second year of the program, the team boasted 56 members. The team is expanding to middle school students this year with a new program called Lego League.

The baseball-pitching robot is a special project for the Nicolet's robotics team, crafted over the course of three months on summer break. Normally, the team participates in an annual robotics competition, where teams from around the world are given a common problem to solve in a six-week time frame using a standard toolkit and set of rules.

Successful test runs

With years of practice under their belt, and the mentorship of community volunteers, they were able to create a pneumatically-driven, electromagnetically-fired catapult. They were able to show off their robotic creation on two separate test runs at Miller Park over the last couple weeks. One of the test runs took place before a Brewers-Blue Jays game two weeks ago, and the robot caught the attention of Brewers pitcher Wily Peralta, third base coach Ed Sedar and several executives from the front office.

"Robot Yount" will throw out the first pitch Saturday at 6:10 p.m., and the robotics team will be showing him off at the concourse in guest relations for people to see it up close.

There will be plenty of other opportunities to see Nicolet's newest celebrity athlete for those who aren't able to make it to the game. Robot Yount will make an appearance at the F.E.A.R. team's tailgate event starting at noon on Saturday at Nicolet High School. A $15 cover charge will cover the cost of typical tailgate food and sodas, with proceeds benefiting the F.E.A.R. program. The robot will also be at back-to-school night at Nicolet on Sept. 10.

Thiel said he could not be more proud of the team's efforts, which he said would not be made possible without the support of the community, parent mentors and donations from local companies.

Nicolet's robotics program is just one piece of a larger STEM program at Nicolet. This year, Nicolet partnered with the STEM Academy to offer a new Engineering Design and Architectural Design curriculum. STEM curriculum engages students through real work experiences and creates the opportunity to acquire industry certification. Students will have the opportunity to become certified in the 3D CAD design software, SolidWorks, during the 2014-15 school year.

"Student interest in STEM has never been higher," said Nicolet School District Superintendent Dr. Robert Kobylski, "We've found that students are excited by the hands-on learning STEM provides. The STEM Academy curriculum will make our students more competitive when applying to colleges and universities as well as prepare them for future employment opportunities. "

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