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CV robotics team advances to championship in St. Louis

Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

In its rookie year, the Chartiers Valley FIRST Robotics team is going for it all.

The team of 22 headed to St. Louis on Wednesday for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics championships, where they will compete Thursday and Friday for a shot at the finals, to be held Saturday.

“It's been amazing to see the transformation in the kids from when we started to where we were at the end of the regional competition,” said Jeff Macek, a high school teacher and mentor for the team.

“It has been a long and hard road starting from nothing and building everything we need for St. Louis,” said Dakota Roscoe, a junior on the robotics team.

The team, which the students nicknamed Horsepower, is part of the district's engineering academy.

The robots must be able to navigate a course with certain obstacles, such as inclines and declines. Teams do not see the course until the day of the competition, but know what functions the robot must be able to perform.

“We knew we had to move a two-foot exercise ball down the field and score in an upper or lower goal,” Macek said. “The upper goal is about eight feet in the air. The low goal was on the ground.”

In January, a kickoff event is held, where the robot challenge is revealed. From that day, teams have six weeks to build a robot ready for competition at the district and regional level. At the end of six weeks, the robots are locked up until competition. The regional competition of 48 teams was held in March at California University of Pennsylvania. The team took 14th overall at that competition.

The challenge in St. Louis is similar to the regional competition, but there are more than 200 teams from all over the world.

“The whole making it to the world championships is mind-blowing to me,” junior Ryan Stephen said. “As a rookie team, we had no idea what to do once we found out what the challenge was, while there were teams that have been making robots for 10 years.”

At first, Macek said, the team was not cohesive.

“I could see that they were kind of splintered – they were not really together like a team when we first started,” he said. “They were chippy with each other, and as we progressed, there was a lot of pressure and opportunity to fail.”

Roscoe said the most difficult aspect was putting ideas together.

“Our hardest part during the build season was taking all of our ideas from our 22 members and condensing them into one workable solution which worked,” he said.

Each team chose a motto. The students from Horsepower chose, “That should have worked.”

“Every time that we came up with an idea what we thought would work, it didn't,” Stephen said.

“Every time we did something that we thought had little chance of working, it always worked.”

He said he hopes the adversity can become a lesson.

“They found out they can fail at something and still move forward and succeed,” he said. “Just because something doesn't work doesn't mean it's over.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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