Volunteers Beth Denton, left, and Ellie Burck were putting nets on basketball hoops Thursday afternoon during set-up for the Niles FIRST Robotics District Competition this weekend at Niles High School. Daily Star photo/CRAIG HAUPERT

Archived Story

Niles gym prepared for robots

Published 4:36pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

FIRST Robotics volunteer Beth Denton couldn’t believe how quickly Niles High School was transforming before her eyes.

Denton was one of about a dozen volunteers helping turn the high school’s gymnasium Thursday afternoon into an arena for this weekend’s Niles FIRST Robotics District Competition.

“It’s just amazing,” said Denton, of Galien Township. “What I love about it is there are so many different types of people here doing their own thing. Wiring people, sound people — everyone is here helping out.”

Just a few hours into construction, work was nearing completion.

Set-up coordinator Jack Jones said it usually takes six to 10 people around six hours to construct the FIRST Robotics Field.

The pieces for the field are provided by FIRST Robotics and the event itself costs approximately $10,000 to run, according to event coordinator Nathan Chupp. who also acts as FIRST Robotics district chair in southwestern Michigan.

He said the event is worth the cost.

“It’s great for the kids,” he said. “We are talking a whole bunch of nerds coming together with a DJ playing “Cotton Eye Joe,” dancing in the middle of the walkways and having a good time.”

Forty-one FIRST robotics teams from across the state are expected to be in Niles for the two-day competition, which runs today and Saturday.

Each team is bringing a robot they designed and built to shoot basketballs through a hoop. Each team will join a three-team alliance, and alliances will compete to see whose robots can score the most points.

Between matches, teams will work on their robots in a pit area located in the high school’s auxiliary gym. Chupp said it isn’t unusual to see sparks flying and teams ripping parts of their robots in the pit.

Robot inspection will take place in the school’s wrestling room. There, certified inspectors will make sure each robot is built according to the rules.

More than 100 volunteers — many are parents or community members who just want to help —  will be running the event.

“This is something that has made a huge difference in my sons’ lives, and I just felt I had to do my part,” said volunteer coordinator Laura Hollister, who has two kids on the Niles Robotics team.

Hollister said about 20 more volunteers are needed. People can sign up to volunteer at the entrance to the competition. Hollister said they also could use crockpots of soup for Saturday’s volunteer lunch.

Opening ceremonies tip off at 10:30 a.m. today.

By using this website’s user-contribution features, including comments, photo galleries, or any other feature, you agree to abide by the terms of use. Please read this agreement in its entirety because it contains useful information that will help you better understand the rules and general "good manners" that are expected when contributing content to this website.

Editor's Picks