Decorah robotics teams have a strong showing at league tournament

The Decorah Robotics teams finished their season by competing at their league tournament competition this Saturday at Peet Junior High School in Cedar Falls. The tournament featured 26 area robotics teams all competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) competition. 

At the beginning of the school year, these FTC teams, comprised of high school students, were given an obstacle course scenario. Teams then designed, built and programmed an 18 x 18 x 18 inch robot that they could control in order to score as many points as possible within that scenario. 

This year’s competition is called Centerstage and required teams to place hexagonal pixels onto a slanted backdrop, launch paper airplanes into landing zones, suspend their robots onto trusses, along with many other scoring opportunities in both an autonomous and driver-controlled playing period.

The freshmen/sophomore Decorah team, Thor’s Thunder Squad, competed in their six qualification matches, going 3-3 and placing 12th at the competition. Their robot excelled at efficiently picking up pixels from the center using two widening pinchers, and the team could suspend their robot on the trusses using flexible hooks attached to two rack-and-pinion raised towers. Thor’s Thunder Squad also finished second in the Control Award category, which is awarded to teams who demonstrate innovative thinking to solve game challenges through the use of sensors, machine learning and autonomous control. The team had programmed their robot to sense where a randomly-placed scoring element was located, using machine learning and a webcam on their robot that allowed them to score bonus points during their autonomous program.

The junior/senior Decorah team, The Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm Flailing Tube Men and Women, went 4-2 during their qualification matches, earning them a 6th place finish. They were the first team drafted in the playoff round but lost to the eventual league champion team, the Falcon Bots from Parkersburg. The Wacky Wavers designed their robot to funnel pixels through two boot flywheels into a 3D printed box. The box was then raised up on a set of drawer slides and dropped onto the backdrop using a servo motor to tilt the box. The junior/senior team finished in second in the Connect Award category, which is awarded to teams who best connect with their local STEM community. The team did outreach events throughout the year with Boeing engineers, Gemini, Inc., and the high school freshmen, along with livestreaming many of their practices and competitions.

“I am very proud of our teams this year as both placed high in the standings and ranked higher than we ever have in their two award categories,” said Decorah Robotics Coach Brett Wilker. “Many of the students in our robotics programs are interested in pursuing careers in engineering, robotics, or computer science; and through this program, they are given the opportunity to learn the skills that will make them successful in these fields.”

More photos in the February 22 Decorah Public Opinion Newspaper.

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