All wired up

ESCANABA – Coaches of two Delta County FIRST Robotics teams that advanced to the World Championship in St. Louis, Mo. at the end of April are proud of the year their teams have had.

The Gladstone Brave Bots, Team 4391, and the Escanaba Robomos, Team 3602, both advanced to the World Championship held April 23-26 at the Edward Jones Arena.

The teams were just two of 400 teams from around the world who pitted their robots against each other in a game called Aerial Assist.

Teams were divided into four divisions of 100 and randomly placed in alliances of three; they then competed against another random three in 10 qualification rounds, noted Escanaba Robomos Coach Marie Young.

Escanaba finished with three wins and seven losses.

“The ranking of your team is all about the number of wins your alliance teams in the qualification matches get,” she said. “We finished 85 in our 100.”

Young said this ranking unfortunately does not truly reflect a robot’s individual performance, as the Robomos scored “hot” goals in nine of the 10 matches. Ultimately individual points scored by robots did not matter in the rankings.

However, the Robomos were recognized in another aspect of the competition.

As the matches went on, a Fed Ex-sponsored contest posed five challenging questions on math and technology.

“Our students posted answers in creative ways on a Twitter account each day,” said Young. “Our team and one other team out of all 400 received recognition and prizes for our entries.”

And though both teams hail from Delta County, Escanaba and Gladstone never had an opportunity to be aligned with each other or to compete against one another in the World Championship.

“We finished 4-and-6 and we ended up being in 68th place in our court out of 100 teams,” said Gladstone Brave Bots Coach Tim Barron, who noted he is proud of all his team has accomplished this year.

Barron said while the Brave Bots’ overall ranking may seem low, the teams competing were so close that even just one win would have placed Gladstone higher in the rankings.

He calls the championship a great cultural experience for students as they were able to meet other teams from around the world – such as Israel, Mexico, and Canada.

it also was a great experience for students to compete where the St. Louis Rams play football.

“The year was incredible,” said Barron. “It exceeded all expectations that we had. Usually we try to get enough points to make it to the state finals. Making it to the world championship…is something you hope you get to do some day, but I couldn’t believe as the coach, that we actually made it there.”

Although there may be awhile before next year’s FIRST Robotics competitions begin, there are still many things to do to prepare as it truly is a year-round program.

Barron said the team will evaluate what went right and wrong this year to try to improve for next year.

They will then begin the recruiting process for next year’s Brave Bots team and participate in team fundraisers during the summer.

Added Young, “This was an amazing, busy and successful year with new experiences. Our home competition marked the first time a FIRST Robotics Competition took place anywhere in the Upper Peninsula after 25 years of its existence. This gave science, technology, engineering and math more exposure in our community. It was an exciting experience and we got a lot of good feedback from all ages.”

She highlighted winning a district competition for the first time in the Robomos’ four year-history as an added highlight, which eventually led to their qualifying for states and ultimately the World Competition – a truly “eventful and educational journey.”

“Our kids and mentors are tired but still buzzing with excitement and anticipation of next year, with ideas for growth over the summer months,” said Young. “We will continue workshops, exhibitions and fundraising. In many ways, it is what we do on the off season that determines how our build and competition season goes.”