Robotics on the brain

Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - 23:00
Local students compete in regional competition
Eagle River high school robotics Wolf Bots team members Dana Berhardt, Cole Mooty, Aaron Feinstein, Taylor Holshouser and Carisa Andersen. The team competed at the FIRST-Tech Challenge West Super Regional March 20-22 in California.

The Eagle River High School robotics team didn’t fare as well at the FIRST-Tech Challenge West Super-Regional competition held March 20-22, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif., as they did on March 8 in Fairbanks when their alliance with teams from Dimond and South high schools won them first place in state competition.

But that’s okay with Lolly Rader, the ERHS robotics team advisor.

“Although neither team performed as well as they hoped as far as how they placed in the tournament, I was happy with how their robots ran and how they presented themselves,” Rader said. “Both of the Eagle River teams came with well-constructed robots and were able to execute reliably and consistently. Unfortunately the part of the game out of our control didn’t go our way.”

The FIRST-Tech Challenge is a robotics competition for high school students based on a sports model. FIRST is the acronym used for the organization’s name and motto, “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

The Wolf Bots – Team #5532 in the regional competition – placed 24th in the Silicon division out of 36 competitors. Team members are: Carisa Andersen and Dana Berhardt, both juniors; Aaron Feinstein and Taylor Holshouser, both seniors; and Cole Mooty, a freshman.

Mooty, who will have three more years of competition during his high school career, has some lofty goals for future competition.

“My goals for the next year are to increase my knowledge in all STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) categories, while building character and creativity, and helping to inspire the next generation through community service and outreach,” Mooty said.

The other ERHS team competing – Wolf Byte – was team #6112 in the regional competition. It placed 22nd among the 36 teams in the Gold Division. Team members are: Sarah Boelter, a senior; Cole George and Erik Korzon, both juniors; and Kevin Palisoc and Jordan Scott, both seniors.

Korzon, who will have one more year of competition eligibility his senior year, said he was a “little disappointed” the team didn’t advance to the FTC World Championship at the end of April in St. Louis, Mo.

“Next year, I am determined to go to World. Our loss at Super-Regionals has only inspired me to do better next time,” Korzon said. “What I really hope happens is that everyone comes back for another year. I’ve even managed to convince some of my friends to join next year as well. Since we don’t find out what the game will be next season until September, we can’t do a whole lot of designing ahead of then. However, I do plan to have a bigger, heavier robot next time that can take more of a beating and won’t easily tip. I hope it will be as fun as this season was.”

Each fall, FIRST announces a new robotics game for high school teams to design a robot that can efficiently compete in the game. This year’s game was called “Block Party.” The object of the game is to move as many blocks from the outer boundaries of the playing field and place them in baskets in the middle as well as on a teeter totter mechanism that must be balanced. Competition is broken into several timed segments. The first section relies on the pre-programming by team members for the robot to move a pre-loaded cube to the middle of the board to the team’s corresponding infrared beacon. The second competitive portion features team members driving the robot and moving cubes. The third competitive portion requires the robot to raise a flag in the corner of the floor and then attach to a chin bar lifting itself off the floor signifying it has completed its work. Each team has two drivers and one coach. During competition, each team is placed in “alliances” with other teams on their side of the game board competing against another alliance.

West region competition included 72 teams from high schools in Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

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