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Oak Harbor High School robot battles at Key Arena

Oak Harbor High School freshmen Jennifer Fremd (fabrication), Ryan Joslin (pneumatic systems), Shelby Dezarn (payload specialist) and Sara McGuffey (event management), along with advisor Edozie Edoga, troubleshoot before the game.  - Photo courtesy of Daniel Magdelera
Oak Harbor High School freshmen Jennifer Fremd (fabrication), Ryan Joslin (pneumatic systems), Shelby Dezarn (payload specialist) and Sara McGuffey (event management), along with advisor Edozie Edoga, troubleshoot before the game.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Daniel Magdelera

Oak Harbor High School teacher Edozie Edoga described Seattle’s recent robotics competition as “football season squeezed into three days.”

March 27 and 28, about 2,000 students descended on Key Arena. Some teams came from the east coast, and even countries like Turkey.

Sixty-four teams, including Oak Harbor High School, were given a standard kit of parts and rules, and six weeks to create an original robot. However, they had the freedom to engineer, program and design their robot in the best possible way.

This year, the competition loosely resembled a basketball game. The robots had to collect balls and dump them in trailers attached to opposing bots. A “payload specialist” can also shoot baskets, which was freshman Shelby Dezarn’s task.

Advised by Edoga, the Oak Harbor team brought a robot named “One Small Problem.” The bot was two feet tall and three feet wide, with an air-powered arm mounted to the top.

“The kids joked that it was the flying brick,” Edoga said.

When the team arrived at Key Arena that Thursday, it was a disorienting scene. Each team was given 10 square feet of space to work, and nearby was the competition arena, for the game “Lunacy.”

“We scrambled over to our pit, dodging teams screaming “robot!” as they pushed giant toasters made of aluminum and Plexiglas on carts to the various stations in the pit arena. They stopped for no one,” Edoga wrote in an email to Oak Harbor staff.

It was Oak Harbor’s first time competing in Microsoft’s FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, which hopes to inspire budding engineers.

The team was randomly partnered with other high schools, and the rounds were about three minutes long.

“Because of this, it is in your best interest to help out everyone on every team. You never know if you’re helping an ally or the competition,” Edoga said.

A student from a nearby team helped Oak Harbor re-wire their air-powered arm, but they ended up ripping it off after the bot didn’t pass its weight inspection.

The teens had seven qualifying matches in eight hours. Their record was 2-7 by the end of Saturday, which didn’t quality the team for finals. But after improving each time, Edoga said the team will have the experience and know-how for next year’s competition.

“One of the things I was impressed with, was during a 30 minute changeover, they found a problem with a gear. The wheels wouldn’t move. They tore the whole thing off, diagnosed it, and put it together in 20 minutes,” Edoga said.

The competition was also a way for students interested in engineering and technology to network and gain funding for future careers. This year, Microsoft gave away about $10 million in scholarships and Boeing offered to hire people who participated.

“These kids could already have jobs. It’s a cool thing to get involved in,” Edoga said.

The high school students have plans to expand the robotics team by starting up teams in Coupeville and South Whidbey, as well as feeder teams at each of the middle schools.

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