Two members of the Chieftainators make some last minute adjustments to their robot before a match. The team overcame some initial problems with their robot, falling to 5-7 for the two-day event. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)
Two members of the Chieftainators make some last minute adjustments to their robot before a match. The team overcame some initial problems with their robot, falling to 5-7 for the two-day event. (Leader photo/TED YOAKUM)

Archived Story

Area schools compete in FIRST robotics competition

Published 8:00am Monday, March 31, 2014

While robotics may not have the long history or mainstream attention of more traditional high school sporting events, one wouldn’t know it based on the ruckus spectators made on Friday.

Michigan FIRST Robotics hosted one of its regional competitions at St. Joseph High School on Friday and Saturday. Nearly 40 teams from around the entire state came out for the event, including students from Niles, Dowagiac,
Cassopolis and Edwardsburg.

For this year’s event, the teams and their machines went head-to-head in a game known as “Aerial Assist.” The teams are divided into two alliances, each comprised of three robots.

The objective of the game is to score as many points as possible during a 2 1/2-minute time period. Points are earned by having the machines launch a ball into the opposing team’s goal, suspended in the air. Teams could earn additional points by assisting another teammate’s goal by passing the ball over a truss dividing the field.

“The game is a lot different from the one we played last year,” said Grace Smithberger, a member of Team Excel, based out of Niles. “They’re trying to make the game to see everyone get involved. Last year, you could win the game for your alliance all by yourself if you wanted to. Now, the game is all about assisting your alliance.”

Last year, Excel came out on top of the St. Joseph competition, playing a variation of Frisbee called “Ultimate Ascent.” However, the team struggled to adapt to this year’s event initially, losing their first two games, Smithberger said.

“We have a good team,” she said. “If we get these little flaws out we can play much more consistently.”

By the end of the event on Saturday, Excel had bounced back from this initial deficit, ending up in sixth place with a 9-3 record. The team also received the event’s “Innovation in Control” award.

The competition was also the debut of Dowagiac’s rookie team, the Chieftainators. The Dowagiac team first assembled late last year. Members have spent the last four months building a robot for competition.

“The guys were nervous since it’s their first competition,” said Jennings Brosnan, the team’s coach. “In our first match, our machine broke apart, which left the team thinking, ‘What are we going to do now?’ However, we did a quick 5-minute fix and the machine’s been holding up fine ever since.”

The team eventually finished the weekend with a 5-7 record, ending up in 26th place.

The Cassopolis RoboRangers made their second appearance at the St. Joseph regionals this year, ending with a 6-6 record while taking home the “Gracious Professionalism” award.

Team Fallout, from Niles, ended the weekend with a 5-7 record. Another Niles team, Simplotix, ended up with a 3-9 record.

The rookie Edwardsburg team, The Iron Giants, ended the weekend with a 5-7 record.

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