August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Collin Kauth-­Fisher believes that nerds will win in the end. The self-described nerd and recent Millard West grad is accustomed to winning, especially when it comes to robotics.

The 18-year-old has won national accolades for his ability to sink baskets with robotic hands. “That’s not a human doing that, it’s different,” he says, explaining his excitement for robotics. Meanwhile, the next phase of his robotics career is already shaping up to be a slam dunk.

A fascination with technology was one of the most consistent parts of his childhood, amid frequent relocations for his father’s military career. Kauth-Fisher built structures and tinkered with technology, but his interest in robotics really bloomed at Millard West. He pursued robotics classes and joined the school’s robotics team, the Cat Trons, during his senior year. He was the team’s lead programmer. 

Millard West participates in a variety of robotics competitions, principally those that use VEX Robotics Design System. VEX produces metal robotics with attached motors, which are driven by a combination of remote-controlled sensors. The bots often look like miniature forklifts made of perforated steel parts, and are programmed to make computer-controlled movements.

In VEX robotics, students use their knowledge of science, technology, engineering, and math to build structures. The competitions are games that test engineering acumen. Kauth-Fisher and the Cat Trons competed with other high schools throughout the fall and spring semesters. They battled it out in qualifying rounds. Matches consisted of two teams in a ring that looked like a geekish version of WWE Wrestlemania.

Kauth-Fisher, specifically, worked in the CREATE group, an advanced robotics challenge in which students are encouraged to test their engineering and design skills using any system they want, such as LEGO or VEX. This means that, while a standard VEX competition only allows the students to build a robot from kit supplies, students working with the CREATE group are allowed to enhance their inventions.

This creativity helped the Cat Trons succeed in their quest. They advanced from local and regional competitions to the CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship, a three-day event held April 7-9 at the Mid-America Center in Council Bluffs. They competed against approximately 200 teams, including teams from as far as New York and as nearby as Omaha North.

The Cat Trons excelled. The object of the game was for the robots to shoot foam balls into a net. Millard West was the only team to complete the mission. They were crowned the tournament champion of the open division and also won national honors.

Kauth-Fisher’s interest grew into a summer job. This past summer, during an internship at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, he helped graduate students build a portable location tracking system. “I don’t consider it work,” he says during the summer before his freshman year at Iowa State University, where he will study computer engineering.

Just as Kauth-Fisher created a robot with an arm that picks up foam balls, he hopes to create robotic arms for others (possibly in the form of prosthetics).

He believes that robots will play a crucial role in the future, especially in his future.

To learn more, visit nebraskarobotics.com. Omaha Magazine

CollinKauthFisher

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