Batteries in Black and five other Oregon robotics teams also qualify for April tournament

PHOTO COURTESY OF RICHARD HETZLER - The Hot Wired Robotics team finished among the top youth teams at last weekends FIRST Tech Challenge West Super-Regional Championship and qualified for the national competition in late April.With Beaverton-area students leading the way, Oregon robotics teams made an exceptionally strong showing at the FIRST Tech Challenge West Super-Regional Championship last weekend in Oakland, Calif.

Hot Wired Robotics, made up of students from Westview, Sunset and Jesuit high schools, was once again one of the elite teams to qualify for the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship to be held April 27-30 in St. Louis.

Hot Wired, also sponsored by Spark Technology Education, was part of the three-team alliance that won the super-regional tournament and, among other awards, also placed second in the Inspire category, considered the most prestigious honor in the competition.

“There’s a huge amount of suspense,” said team member Neha Nagabothu, who noted that Hot Wired won one of its super-regional matches by a single point.

Hot Wired was part of the winning alliance at the world championships two years ago, and last year, made it to the semifinal rounds. Because of that previous success, Hot Wired will likely be considered one of the teams to watch in St. Louis, where teams from throughout the United States and world will compete.

“By now, we have a lot more experience,” said Adam Barton, one of the team’s captains. “I think there’s definitely higher expectations for us.”

Joining Hot Wired among teams with strong Beaverton ties that qualified for the world championships was Batteries in Black, another of the state’s best youth robotics teams.

Batteries in Black, a 4-H team, came out on top in Oregon’s super-regional qualifying tournament in late February, finishing ahead of Hot Wired. Its members attend public and private high schools in the Beaverton and Portland areas, and Hot Wired members said top teams such as Batteries in Black contribute to their success.

“The other teams motivate us in wanting to improve,” teammate Gokul Kolady said.

Additional teams from Oregon that also qualified for the world championship include two from Medford and one each from Lake Oswego, Hood River and Klamath Falls.

The fact that Oregon is sending seven of the 24 teams (29 percent) to the world championship is particularly impressive since the state has just 6 percent of the population from the dozen states that feed into the super-regional, according to Bruce Schafer, executive director of the Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program.

The Beaverton-based program helps middle- and high-school students explore technical careers in part through the FIRST Tech Challenge competitive robotics program.

During the “RES-Q” competition, based loosely on a mountain rescue, teams first competed in qualifying rounds and then formed alliances with other top teams. After numerous competitions with their robot, dubbed “Captain Hook,” Hot Wired was one of three teams in the alliance left standing.

Hot Wired relies on team members with a variety of skills, from technical to mechanical to communications and marketing. They plan to practice their driving and other skills during the coming weeks, but say they will only make minor improvements to Captain Hook.

“We learn to work together as a team,” Nagabothu said.

Robin Tan said the challenges have gotten progressively harder during their three years of competitions, but the team members also have learned to focus less on winning and more on the total experience.

“It’s about being gracious and being professional in the community,” Tan said.

Being part of the team builds skills that aren’t all technical, but a good number of team members appear headed for careers in technology, engineering and science.

“I’ve been doing this ever since I was in the first grade,” said Alex Tharappel. “It really shows all the possibilities that engineering can have in the world.”

Additional members of Hot Wired Robotics are Bharath Namboothiry, Justin Bao, Alex Yao, Prashanth Gopinatth, Varun Gopinatth, Advaith Nair, Bradley Wang, Pratheek Makineni, Elaine Yang and Rahul Reddy.

Members of the Batteries in Black team that also qualified for the world championships are Anshuman Radhakrishnan, Andrew Kokubun, Nikhil Murthy, Louise Smith, Jennie Wang, Daniel Sealand, Abhinav Brahmarouthu, Neal Aditya, Siddharth Suri, Sameer Suri and Simon Chow.

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