More than Robots, a sport for the mind

Wolverines inspired by STEM at World Championships. By Jeremiah Beckett For The Cordova Times

The Cordova High School robotics team on the second day of the World championships in Houston, Texas, from left, Micah Whitcomb, Dylan Maloney, Ethan Beckett, Emory Vican, Rhett Traxinger, and TJ Hatch. Photo courtesy of CHS robotics team

The Cordova High School Wolverines robotics team won a lottery ticket to compete at the FIRST World Championships in Houston, Texas, in April, an opportunity to spend four days learning, collaborating, and competing with the best student minds in world.

The FIRST Tech Challenge competition included 128 teams from around the globe with kids from across the US and dozens of countries. The world championships were held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, with over 10,000 kids competing across four different robotics categories.

Arriving on opening day, the team was immediately in awe at the size and festive atmosphere of the event. The entire convention center was abuzz with excited students eager for the competition. Each team had an assigned 10×10 ‘pit’ area in the expo hall, which functioned as a home base for the students to work on their robots between matches, share information about their team and community outreach, and as a social hangout spot.

Nearby the expo area was the ‘Innovation Fair’ where big tech companies such as Rockwell Collins, Disney, Boeing, NASA, and more had booths for students to learn how their companies work with robotics. Dozens of colleges had tables providing students the opportunity to learn more about their programs, and scholarship opportunities.

As the competition unfolded, we were overwhelmed by the open collaboration across the teams, with kids sharing design ideas, approaches to building robots and driving systems, code sharing, and more. The students exchange contact information with several teams and spent with several Alaskan teams that had won in our state and regional events in the west coast.

Between competition matches, our students spent a lot of time talking with kids from around the world, exploring the other robotics leagues, and at the innovation fair. Each day the expo and matches started around 8 am, going until 5 pm, with evening activities following. Our students also attended a major league baseball game at Minute Maid Park, visited a technology innovation center for startup tech companies, attend the exclusive ‘RoboProm’ for high school students, the opening celebration city block party with live music and sit-in flight simulators, as well as a full day at the NASA Space Center.

Having won a lottery ticket, being the youngest rookie team in our division, and knowing this was the world championship, our team’s main focus was to collaborate with other students, learn more about the competition and robot designs, and gain additional skills to improve for next season. We also had a modest goal of winning at least one match and not coming in last place in our division. The team exceeded all our goals coming back with a wealth of knowledge, peer contacts, and true inspiration for evolving our local program to higher levels. We also won two matches and ended up placing 119th of 128 teams, which for a program with over 5,000 FTC teams globally technically ranks Cordova in the top 3 percent of all robotics teams. The students are truly inspired after this event and ready to take CHS Robotics to the next level of competition and get more kids involved next year.

This was a huge opportunity for our students and school that would not have been possible without the support from the Cordova School District and our local sponsors.

A big thank you to everyone who supported the new Cordova robotics programs this year and a special thank you for those who financially helped our team attend the world championships, including: Robot Logo Sponsors: AC Value Center, Cordova Telephone Cooperative, FyrSoft (fire-soft), Native Village of Eyak, and Shoreside Petroleum

Event Sponsors: Albert & Maria Newnam, Andra & Nathan Doll, Barry & Gayle Beckett, Camtu’s, Childrens Pallas, Copper Valley Wireless, Cordova Wireless Cooperative, Cully Wooden, Dez Jenson, Goodrich Accounting, Harborside Pizza, HI Monkey, Joann & John Thomas, Laura’s, Lures Salon & Spa, Nichols, North Star Lumber, Plumbline Supply, Prince William Sound Motel, PWSSC, Sheryl & David Glasen, Stacy Plum, Teal Lohse, Terry Kennedy, Trident Seafoods

Also special thanks to the high school assistant coaches who helped us during the season and event travel: Bryan Mills, Darren Traxinger, Jared Niles

To see more pictures from the World Championships or to keep track of the robotics program during the summer and next school year you can follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/cordovafirst/

Jeremiah Beckett is the CHS Tech Club Advisor

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The Cordova Times is Prince William Sound’s oldest newspaper, publishing since 1914. Send story ideas and news tips to news@thecordovatimes.com.