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Hampton robot battle team earns respect for placing sportsmanship first

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Hampton High School botball team members Ian Waldschmidt, left, Brandon Duderstadt and Charlie Bares placed fourth overall at the 2013 International Botball Tournament held in Norman, Okla., this month.

Hampton High School's Botball team returned from the International Botball Tournament earlier this month with a fourth-place award and the respect of the botball community for its show of sportsmanship.

In a semifinal round of the robotics competition, Hampton High School's opponent, the Dead Robot Society from Virginia, was struggling with a technical issue with their robot. After the Dead Robot Society used its time-out card, the Hampton team agreed to let its challenger use Hampton's time out.

“(Teammate) Brandon (Duderstadt) suggested the idea, and I said ‘yes, let's do it,' and we did it before we could consult with anyone else,” said Charlie Bares, an 11th-grader on the team.

“None of us wanted them to lose because they couldn't get their robot to work. It didn't seem fair, we wanted an actual game.”

Because of the extended delay of the game, the battery on the Hampton team's robot died and the team lost the round to the Virginia team.

However, the sophomore botball team still had a strong competition and walked away with fourth place overall and a special Spirit of Botball award for their sportsmanship.

“I was glad to see their work ethic and morale overcame the competition,” said Vince Kuzniewski, the team's faculty advisor. “It wasn't about winning; it was about helping other people. It was good sportsmanship.”

Botball is a competitive robotics program in which teams create robots to complete specific tasks in a certain amount of time. This year, the international tournament was held in Norman, Okla., and attracted more than 50 teams from around world.

Hampton's team members Duderstadt, Bares, Ryan Hornung, Philip Margaria, and Ian and Ryan Waldschmidt spent between 300 to 600 hours each engineering and programming two different robots that could complete different tasks such as separating small balls by color and stacking pieces of PVC pipe.

As Bares' second experience at the International Botball Tournament, he said he was proud of the team's strong performance as “the random underdog team,” but even more proud that the team put aside winning to help another team.

“Giving our time out card and the emotion there was really cool,” Bares said. “We got a standing ovation. Even after the match, the amount of people who wanted to shake our hands or say ‘thanks' … I think 300 people came up to me.”

“Even if we had won the round, we would have lost the final round. It was better to know we did the right thing.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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