Reed City Robotics Team highlighted at recent board meeting

Team mentor: ‘It's really been amazing for these guys in our community to get that recognition’

REMUS — The Reed City school board recently got an education in the sport of competitive robotics from the high school team at its most recent meeting. 

In April, the team competed against five other division champion teams at the World Competition in Houston, Texas, winning two out of three matches in the championship tournament and ultimately finishing as the fourth place alliance in the world.

The group also competed at two district events, where they finished in ninth place and sixth place, doing well enough to qualify for state competition, where they finished in 17th place in their division.

At the May 16 meeting, Brad Smith, head coach of the team, said the program has seen exciting competition since its inception. 

“We had quite an experience in Houston,” Smith said. “This was a first for us for a lot of things. We thought we were doing pretty good our first competition. Mainly, it was these guys' first in-person competition so none of them had been to a in person competition so that was a big deal.

“With the state competition, we qualified the first time ever just by points,” he added. “We've gone before by winning the chairman's awards that we've had banners for. And then this was the first time of an earning it through how we did at competition.” 

The team then brought the robot out to show the board a demo of how the mechanics worked in competition, as well as passing around medals and trophies won by the group. 

The robot showed its power when it performed for its student drivers. It is able to move in any given direction and turn on a dime, as well as being able to climb and launch large colored balls.  

Smith said the robot see some intense physical work. 

“There are some battle scars just from the wear and tear on the machine from the years,” Smith said. “One of the other things that we did this year was we went to a different drive train, it's called a swerve drive. It’s first year we've ever used it, and we played around with it in the fall and challenged our programmers to keep learning how to use it and how to do it better.”

In April, it was the team’s first time being an alliance captain, and attaining the highest ranking in team history, 74 out of 476 teams in Michigan. 

The team also held a top 10 rank with the top teams in Michigan for most of the state championship. 

During the season, the team competed against schools like Notre Dame Preparatory, Clarkston, Grandville, Hartland, and other larger districts. 

Jestin Vansoyoc, assistant mentor of the Reed City High School Robotics Team, said the students benefit greatly from the education the competition provides. 

“The positive exposure that they have brought to our school in our community has been more far reaching than I would have ever guessed,” Vansoyoc said. “It's really been amazing for these guys in our community to get that recognition. Reed City was No. 1 as far as smallest population, and the next biggest school town competing was twice as big.

“There were four towns that have populations less than 10,000 (in population size),” he added. “The average population of these elite teams is over 100,000-146,000, average city size. That presents some challenges for us, but these guys and gals have done so much, the resources we have and able to achieve this year has been incredible.” 

Smith and Vansoyoc said the community support was an especially large part of the team feeling positive going into each competition, and especially the Worlds Competition. 

The team 3-D printed over 160 different pieces for the robot during the building process. The ability to print certain items was invaluable as the group was constructing the vital innards and protective outer components of the robot. 

The students put in around 300 hours individually during the season working on the robot after school together. 

Team members then walked around and handed out 3-D printed anvil mementos for each board member to keep. 

Smith said moving forward he hopes to continue to grow the program.

“We’re hoping that our success this year brings in more kids in the coming years,” Smith said. “We’ve created a great program and the kids always have a lot of fun during the season and at competitions.” 

For more information on the Reed City Schools board of education or programming, visit the district’s website at www.reedcityschools.org.