UHS Robotics Team Heads to Championships

UHS Marketing
Team Mentor Tyler Butler and sophomore Anabel Moreno talk about marketing strategies for Team Confidential. The Umatilla High School robotics team qualified for the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships in St. Louis and is working to raise the $15,000 need to make the trip.

[quote style=”2″]Fundraisers Set for Saturday[/quote]

Tuesday evening, Umatilla High School students hammered the lid down onto a 4-foot-tall plywood box. On Wednesday, the bulky-shaped housing “Rambo” was loaded onto a FedEx truck headed for St. Louis, Missouri, and the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championship.

In two weeks, 13 students and a handful of volunteer mentors will follow their robot to the competition – if they can raise $15,000 in time to travel to St. Louis before the April 24-27 championship.

“We’re fundraising like crazy,” Team Media Liaison Anay Mendoza said Wednesday. “Every penny counts. Every dollar is more than we had before.”

But fundraising is only the most recent step in a long road to the championships.

Two years ago, Umatilla didn’t have a robotics club. The team began with a video about FIRST – For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology – and its international robotics competition. At its first meeting, interested students took apart a collection of old toys and electronics to see how the pieces worked, a baby step toward robotics.

In January 2012, FIRST Robotics Competition kicked off its “build season” – a six-week period where students design, build and program a robot capable of competing in a set challenge game. That year, 20 UHS students joined the competition and competed, with a working robot, at the Autodesk Oregon Regional Competition. The rookie team placed in the exact middle ranking of more than 60 teams in 2012.

This year, the team decided to double their chances by entering both the Autodesk competition and a regional in Spokane. After a mediocre showing in Oregon, the Spokane competition exceeded all expectations.

In the finals of the competition, matches are played with an alliance of three teams. Although Umatilla’s Team Confidential scored few points, the team gained attention from top teams for its high defense. In the finals, two teams – “Mean Machine” from Camas, Wash., and “Skunkworks” from Des Moine, Wash., both which had already qualified for nationals at other competitions – picked Umatilla to join their alliance.

Assigned the blue side of the field, the three robots faced off against the red alliance.

Team Confidential’s robot, “Rambo,” can shoot flying discs, climb a tower and run by player controls or autonomously.
A close match came down to the final seconds as robots struggled to score points by climbing a pyramid and shooting flying discs into goals. Judges added in penalty points, and the final score appeared on the big screen: Red, 95; Blue, 138.

“As soon as we heard the scores, everyone started jumping around, hugging, crying. A lot of crying,” Mendoza said.

Edgar Magana, a junior on the team’s safety committee, said the shock still hadn’t hit.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said. “The moment I saw that we had won, I just couldn’t believe it.”

Junior Project Manager Anabel Moreno, a sophomore, was filming the match on an iPad during the announcement.

“I was behind the camera and I kept thinking, ‘This is great. I’m getting great video,’” she said . “I didn’t realize what it meant at first. I had to stop and say, ‘Oh, my gosh. We won.’ No matter what happens at the (St. Louis) competition, this is unreal. It’s a huge stepping stone for our team.”

Mentor Tyler Butler said the Spokane regional became the “longest day of his life,” and the win caught him off guard.

“It’s like we woke up that morning pretty happy that we knew how to dribble, then, six hours later, we won the March

UHS Final Score
In the final match on Saturday, April 4 in Spokane, Team Confidential and its three-team alliance qualified for the world championships.
Madness tournament. That’s how big of deal this is,” he said.

Because the team never expected to qualify for the national competition, they had no funding set aside. Suddenly, they had less than a month to raise $15,000.

Through grants and donations, including $1,000 from the Umatilla Lions Club, the team has raised more than half the necessary funds. To save money, the team will take a bus – driven by club mentors – from Umatilla to St. Louis. They’ll sleep on the floor of a church during the competition, April 24-27, and will share storage space with other teams.

With $6,000 to go, the club is actively seeking for donations, and this weekend, they’ll host a golf tournament, bake sale, yard sale and pancake breakfast.

Most events will take place at the Umatilla School District Office, 1001 Sixth St. The breakfast will run from 7-10 a.m., and plates are $2. The yard sale runs from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Anyone interested in donating items for the yard sale can drop them off at the district office on Friday or from 7-9 a.m. Saturday.

Saturday,Team Confidential will also accept cans and bottles for recycling, and anyone can donate through PayPal directly to the team.

“We’re so grateful to everyone who has donated because that takes us one step closer to making this dream a reality,” Mendoza said. “We have put so many hours, so much work into this. My parents keep asking me, ‘When are you going to be done with robotics?’ I say, ‘never.’ My only regret is not doing this last year.”

Check out a clip of the UHS robotics team in action during the regionals in Spokane.

Visit the UHS robotics team website to learn more about Team Confidential.