Gray’s 2018 Appalachian Fair kicked off Monday with a host of those rides, along with games, thrills, food and entertainment for the entire family.
And robots, too — built by future engineers younger than most of the folks on those rides.
A walk up from the livestock buildings brought fairgoers to the Career and Technical Education building, where David Crockett High School robotics students showed off two robots they built under a two-week deadline.
Robotics is a division of the Technology Student Association, a national organization that prepares students interested in engineering, technology, science and mathematics and helps them hone their skills for a STEM career.
Some of the student engineers who built the robots handed off the controls to passersby and watched as they played with the hand-built creations. The two robots had two “arms,” which the operators used to pick up tennis balls and toss them in baskets.
Connor Bailey, 14, is a freshman at David Crockett who helped assemble the two robots for the fair.
“It fascinates me to see all the different ways you can wire and build robots,” Bailey said. “I’ve been interested in robotics for a few years now. My brother got involved with it originally, and I sort of got dragged along, but I love it anyway.
“With these robots, I helped with a little bit of everything. I plan to go after a career in something like this — mostly with the engineering and building aspect. It’s a lot of tinkering around and just seeing what all you can do.”
The drafting and engineering instructor at David Crockett, Guy McAmis, has been mentoring students for 14 years and has supervised as his students have worked together to build robots for 7 years.
“They’ve built these things from scratch,” McAmis said. “They follow the instructions to put everything together. Yes, they have plans to go by, but if they don’t follow the plans and put it together right, it’s not going to run.
“It’s trial and error. They end up having to take it apart and put it back together two or three different times. It involves a lot of problem solving skills. Life is all about learning how to problem solve, and this really helps these students in that aspect.”