A robot made at Hillsboro's Glencoe High is on display at theOregon Museum of Science & Industry

Eclipse, a robot built as part of Glencoe High School's FIRST Robotics Team, is one of several 'bots on display at OMSI's 'Robot Revolution' exhibit, which runs through September.
The robot uprising has begun at Hillsboro's Glencoe High School.

Since 2013, Glencoe students have been hard at work through Shockwave, the school's robotics club.

The students design, build and program their own robots for a series of competitions aimed at promoting science, technology, engineering and math among high school students

Glencoe has garnered a reputation as a powerhouse in the local robotics community. At Veterans Memorial Coliseum this past weekend the school came in fourth among more than 60 competitors during the Pacific Northwest district championships.

The placement was good enough to earn Glencoe a spot in next week's world championships in Houston. This is the fifth year in a row the team has qualified for the world championships.

FIRST Robotics — otherwise known as For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology — is a national program aimed at promoting robots programs among middle and high schools. Each year, the program sends schools instructions for a game. It's up to the teams to design and build robots to compete. This year's challenge was won by stacking blocks to tip a large scale.

"If you control the scale, you have a very high chance of winning," said Nick Ogden, a senior at Glencoe High School in Hillsboro and a four-year member of the school's team, Shockwave 4488.

In an arena designed like Pac-Man's playground, the robots scurried to hoist fabric-covered milk crates onto balances, with some climbing the teeter-totter scales as the clock counted down the 150-second matches.

Ogden, who dyed his blonde hair a fiery red for the occasion, said he spent 500 hours spread over three months working on his team's robot. The club has inspired him to pursue a college degree in mechatronics, though his passion had a modest beginning.

"I sucked at basketball and I wanted something to do in the winter," he said.

And the reason behind his audacious, vermillion-colored 'do?

"It's a tradition. Before the competition we get the drive team all mohawked up," Ogden said with a smile.

Almost all of the 64 teams had more than two dozen members, giving students the opportunity to divvy up the tasks of designing the robots using computer-aided design software called CAD.

This spring, one of Glencoe's robots has been getting the star treatment, on display at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry's exhibit on robotics.

"It is such a huge honor that they wanted to include us," said Jean Tenca, Glencoe's head mentor. "They said they wanted to have a big robot exhibit and wanted representation from FIRST programs."

The exhibit explores the current state of robotics, showcasing poker-playing robots, machines which mimic your own facial expressions, snake-like 'bots that crawl through pipes and alert humans to leaks or system damages.

On display is Eclipse, Glencoe 2016 robot. The robot went on display last month and will remain throughout the exhibits run, which ends in September.

"I was so impressed that OMSI wanted local representation of robotics work in the area," Tenca said. 'The exhibit shows a lot about robotics and the things it can do. All of those are professionally made programs and university programs. The section we're in shows a path anyone can take toward those other projects. We can show the audience how you can get involved in something like this."

After the exhibit wraps up this fall, Eclipse will return to Glencoe, where students will use it for exhibitions and demonstrations in the community.

OMSI's "Robot Revolution" exhibit runs through Sept. 3. OMSI is located at 1945 S.E. Water Ave., in Portland.

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