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Still in the robotics game

New robotics team from Wood competes at FIRST Tech Challenge tournament


Another robotics team from Wilsonville has emerged a winner from tournament play.

A team of seventh-graders from Inza R. Wood Middle School — the Roborines — competed in a robotics tournament Jan. 25. The Roborines competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) league, which brings together teams from seventh to twelfth grade and their robots to compete head to head.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - From left to right, seventh-graders Tristan Cavarno, Dane Collins, Nathan Tidball and Trevor Johnson form the Roborines team.The Roborines were the youngest team at Oregon’s FTC qualifying tournament, held at Tigard High School. The team won the Think award for the engineering notebook team members maintained to document their robot design process.

“It was complicated,” team parent Ruth Miller said. “They had to document their findings every single meeting. They have a goal for their meeting and they document their progress. They put in sketches. ... Their notebook was pretty comprehensive. That’s what the award was about.”

The students used their notebook to describe the science and math principles they explored as they designed their robots and planned their game strategies. They documented their design and redesign processes, and even documented the origin of team’s name: It’s a play on the Wood school mascot, the wolverine.

Students from Wood, as well as the district’s other middle and primary schools, participate in FIRST Lego robotics, and the district has a high school team, Error Code Xero. The Roborines are hoping to start a new tradition in the FTC division. It’s somewhere in between the Lego robotics teams popular at primary school that also are available at middle schools and the intense competition available only at the high school level.

“It’s a different kind of transition, this middle level,” Miller said. “The earlier robotics group, with Legos, is pretty popular, and the high school level is very popular, with the big robots. This level is kind of a challenge, even getting the team started.”

Like robotics teams on all levels, FTC involves a team challenge. by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Wood's robotics team, the Roborines, built this robot to compete in a FIRST Robotics challenge called Block Party.Each team builds a robot and competes in the challenge. For FTC teams, this year’s challenge was called Block Party.

“It’s a two-minute competition,” Miller said. “The first 15 seconds, the robot has to move autonomously, based on the programming the kids have done. So if something goes amok, there’s nothing that can be done.”

To meet the challenge, the Roborines used a robotics kit to build a robot and then programmed it to perform certain tasks, using a program called Robot C. The challenge involved using the robot to pick up 3-inch square blocks and then deposit them into baskets or scoot them into designated areas.

“Everything they do, they get points for,” Miller said.

Although the Roborines’ season is over now, the team was pleased with its showing at the tournament and already is planning to regroup during the next school year. Miller said the team learned a great deal from the experience of competing.

“The robots were slamming into each other,” she said. “We didn’t realize it was going to be that intense.”

Teams that did the best at the tournament competed using what Miller called “little mini-tanks.” Those teams built their robots with assistance from machine shops willing to collaborate to customize — and beef up — the robot kits. Looking ahead to the next competition season, Miller said the Roborines hope to make a similar connection to a local business.

“We could really use some help from a machine shop in Wilsonville,” she said. “I’m hoping to get attention from a machine shop that might be willing.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - The Roborines, a team of Wood seventh-graders, built this robot and competed with it in a tournament Jan. 25The Roborines already have a long thank you list, starting with their coach, Mike Tidball, and software mentor Alan Cavarno. Wood Middle School provided a meeting place, and an engineer from TE Connectivity, Kevin Lewis, served as engineer mentor. Three local sponsors, Wilsonville Robotics Stewardship Group, Tualatin electronics firm CUI Inc. and APICS, made the team’s season possible and kept at least four middle-schoolers interested and involved in robotics.

“I think there’s a whole gap with the kids in middle school not realizing,” Miller said. “Nobody knows how to do it. They do (robotics) in grade school and they get to the middle school and they just drop it. Everybody knows about the high school team. The middle level, there’s a gap.”

The Roborines are primed to fill that gap, and they encourage anyone interested in learning more about FTC robotics to contact them for information. Reach Miller at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit usafirst.org to learn more.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
503-636-1281, ext. 112
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