Local robotics teams prepare for season

OSCEOLA/MECOSTA COUNTIES — After six weeks of work to design, construct, test and weigh their robots, local high school teams sealed their mechanical masterpieces as Tuesday, or “bag day,” came to a close. Teams will unbag their robots at their first competition of the season, many of which will take place throughout March.

The competitions are a part of For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST), a program designed to inspire young people to be science and technology leaders and innovators by engaging their science, engineering and technology skills. This year, teams will compete in an arcade-themed challenge. Competition-ready robots should be able to lift crates, called “power blocks,” and place the blocks on switches or a scale. At the end of each match, robots ascend to a platform.

Teams from Big Rapids High School, Chippewa Hills High School, Crossroads Charter Academy, Evart High School, Morley Stanwood High School and Reed City High School will each participate in two district events during the season. Teams may work on their robot between competitions. Teams are randomly selected to work together in alliances in the various matches in each district event.

“Even though it’s a competition, you work with a lot of other teams,” said MSHS team member Benjamin Lewis. “You can’t really do this alone.”

Lewis noted that while his team may be part of an alliance for one round, they be competing against their former alliance members in a later round.

Kicking off the district events for local teams, the EHS, MSHS and RCHS teams will all compete from Thursday, March 1, through Saturday, March 3, at Traverse City Central High School, located at 1150 Milliken Drive, Traverse City.

From Thursday, March 15, through Saturday, March 17, CCA high-schoolers will challenge their peers from other districts at Lincoln High School, located at 7425 Willis Road, Ypsilanti, and EHS students will compete at Gull Lake High School, at 7753 N. 34th St., Richland.

On Friday, March 23, and Saturday, March 24, the BRHS team will kickoff their spring break by competing at Grand Valley State University, located on Campus Drive, Allendale.

CHHS, CCA and MSHS teams will round out their spring break with a district event from Thursday, March 29, through Saturday, March 31, at Shepherd High School, located at 100 E. Hall St., Shepherd.

The final district events for local teams will take place from Thursday, April 5, through Saturday, April 7. BRHS and CHHS will finish their district season at Forest Hills High School, located at 5901 Hall St. SE, Grand Rapids, and RCHS will participate in competition at Alpena High School, located at 3303 S. Third Ave., Alpena.

Teams scoring high enough will have a chance to compete at the state level from Wednesday, April 11, to Saturday, April 14, at Saginaw Valley State University, located at 7400 Bay Road, University Center.

“This is an opportunity for the students to problem solve,” said EHS coach Ted Marthakis. “We have some really talented kids here.”