Niles High School’s robotics team finished first place at a recent competition in Traverse City March 9-10. Submitted photo

Archived Story

Niles robot rules Traverse City

Published 6:02pm Monday, March 12, 2012

You don’t always need experience to be effective. The Niles High School robotics team is proof of that.

In its second year, the Niles robotics team beat dozens of area robotics teams to take first place at the FIRST Robotics Rebound Rumble district competition held in Traverse City March 9-10.

It is the first win in the program’s short history.

“I still can’t believe it happened,” Niles freshman Ruben Andrade said.

Each team was given the task of making from scratch a robot capable of picking up and shooting basketballs through a hoop. Points were awarded for baskets made, among other things.

Niles did well enough during Friday’s qualifying round to advance to Saturday’s championship bracket. On Saturday, Niles formed an alliance with two other schools — Allendale and Lowell — to take on seven other three-team alliances in a tournament-style bracket.

In the final round, Niles’ alliance had to win two out of three games to win the tournament. They lost the first game, but won the final two.

“This is the first win for every team on our alliance,” said Niles sophomore Orion Tweedy. “We won against teams who have been around 10 to 15 years.”

It didn’t take long for Niles students to figure out their robot was most effective at playing defense. So while their alliance teammates shot baskets, Niles students maneuvered their robot to the other side of the court to push around the other teams’ robots.

The strategy worked.

“One judge told us it was the best defense he’d ever seen,” Andrade said.

Niles sophomore Alexis Morrison said robots aren’t allowed to ram into each other, but pushing is allowed.

“One team’s robot kept bashing into other robots, but they were disqualified,” Morrison said.

Robotics club coach Wayne Borr said he was proud of his team, which will be back in action at the Niles Robotics District event March 22-24 at Niles High School.

“I sat and stood and danced — whatever it was called — in the upper deck on Saturday and just stared down and watched the whole thing,” Borr said. “I thought: This isn’t the basketball I remember from high school.”

For more information on the Niles robotics team, visit the team’s website at

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