For many seniors, spare time is a luxury and usually spent in relaxation. For senior Derek Brewer, his free time is spent a little differently.
“Well, I’m a big computer nerd,” Brewer said.
Brewer spends 3-4 hours every week day on computers, and more than 12 hours every weekend.
“I build, tune, and maintain my own PC’s and do quite a bit of gaming on them,” said Brewer. He estimates doing all of his own computer work has saved Brewer hundreds of dollars.
This has been a hobby of Brewer’s since he was 11 years old, when his grandfather gave him his old computer.
“Two days after I got it, it broke. In order to fix it, I had to learn an old operating system called DOS (Disk Operating System)…in the process, I guess I just got really geeked out about computers,” said Brewer.
Recently, Brewer and his teammates, sophomore Spencer Rogers and senior Matt Leon, constructed their own working robot for the Vex Robotic contest, which took place at Derby Middle School in early February, for their Systems Engineering class, run by Bernie Simms.
“The event, held in the gymnasium, with music and sound system blaring, was designed to display robotics and engineering to middle school students in the hope that they will sign up for an engineering class when they reach Seaholm,” said Simms.
The goal of the competition was to create a robot that was able to place a tennis ball into a goal to score points. After the class members were done moving their robots through the challenges, the kids watching the demonstration were allowed to take turns battling the robots to see who could get the most points.
“The way my team and I decided to solve the problem of placing a tennis ball into the goal was forklift style design,” said Brewer.
The team had to go through some failures before they reached their final design.
“Well, some early ideas for the robot were a claw arm on the front, but the tennis balls usually just slipped out of the grips and we couldn’t get it to lift high enough,” said Brewer.
The ingenuity of the team’s forklift design paid off. They picked up the first place prize in the competition, which was the first time Brewer had worked on a robot for a competition.
“This competition ranks right up with getting my Eagle Scout award in terms of pride, I don’t usually get an opportunity to compete like this,” said Brewer.
What motivated Brewer the most in this contest, and in previous projects, wasn’t winning.
“It’s fun to be given a problem and told ‘ok now go find a solution,’ the creativity of finding the solution is exciting,” said Brewer.
Brewer, at this point, plans on becoming a computer engineer in the future and will most likely attend Michigan Tech in the fall.