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Robots whirl into action
Union High School team competes in Portland
A crowd of several hundred students, along with their mentors, visiting family members and curious spectators, stare down from the grandstands at a peculiar playing field.
On either end, four basketball hoops are mounted on three levels: one on the top, one on the bottom and two in the middle.
Across the center of the field runs a 1-foot high metal barrier. Three teeter-totter bridges are placed on the barrier — one red, one blue and one white.
Six teams are positioned behind the baskets; three on each end of the field.
On the field, six robots are placed, ready for action.
In the center, an announcer yells, “Get ready for Rebound Rumble! In three, two, one … go!”
The robots whirl into action. This amazing spectacle was only one of 99 matches played at the recent FIRST Robotics Competition Autodesk Oregon Regional.
From March 8-10, the Union High School FRC Team, the Robocats, competed in the Autodesk Oregon Regional at Memorial Coliseum in Portland. The 11 team members and their adult mentors competed in nine, two-minute and 40-second matches spanning Friday and Saturday, with additional practice matches on Thursday before competition.
Although the team finished 52nd out of 66 teams, they were not discouraged by their
“We did very well this weekend,” said head coach Nod Palmer. “These kinds of programs take time to build, and this is only our second year, whereas we’re competing with teams that have been doing this for more than 10 years. I am very proud of the team—they all did great.”
According to Robocat team members, their robot, affectionately named Al, did a much better job on the playing field than his predecessor from last year. “He did really well,” stated team member Austin Nash. “It gets pretty rough out there, but he only really broke down in the last match, when we fell off a bridge. Other than that, he did really well.”
The Robocats’ only senior, Elizabeth Sheehy, also had a very good weekend. Sheehy is planning on attending the Oregon Institute of Technology in the fall, and was informed during the course of the competition, that she will be receiving one of only two scholarships for FIRST Robotics at OIT.
The scholarship amount is $1,000, and is renewable for four years.
“It’s really exciting,” said Sheehy. “It’s great that OIT offers this scholarship. I’d really like to see more people on the robotics team, and these kinds of scholarships are great incentives for people who might not have considered FRC to try it out.”
Of the 66 teams competing in the Autodesk Oregon Regional, Union was one of only two teams from Eastern Oregon.
This year, the Union team was joined by a rookie team from Umatilla in representing Eastern Oregon. The Umatilla team did very well, ending the competition in 32nd place. Other teams came from as far away as Alaska, Hawaii, Arizona, and Mexico. Many teams, however, came from Washington, Idaho, and of course, Oregon.
Overall, the weekend was a good one for the Union Robocats.
“I don’t view this as a failure at all,” said team member Tanner Mugrage. “We went out and did our best, and we had fun: that’s really as much as we can ask for.”
As for the future, the Robocats are planning some fundraisers and promotional appearances over summer vacation, including a float in the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show Parade, and a “Drive the Robot” Day outside JC Penney, in La Grande.
If you’d like to see Al in action, check out the Oregon 2012 playlist on the watchFIRSTnow channel on Youtube!
Elizabeth Sheehy originally wrote this article for the Union High School newspaper.