Group having trouble raising resources for international championship

The Lakeridge High School robotics team is poised to enter a global competition — but the five juniors lack the funds to enter the championship they have striven to compete in for four years.

Untitled-8 nabbed second place in the statewide FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Championship Tournament on March 3 in Hillsboro, earning itself a spot in the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship next month.

Team coach Bryan Kelly said Untitled-8’s first state victory took the team by surprise. Some team members are struggling to find the resources to go to the April 24-27 global showdown in St. Louis, where 128 teams from 14 countries will face off.

“And, in the spirit of teamwork, if some cannot go, the team altogether may have to sacrifice this hard-won achievement,” Kelly said.

The team needs at least $3,000 by the end of April to get every member to the tournament. The entrance fee for the big event is $1,000, and travel and lodging amp up costs.

Untitled-8 long has helped others, founding its own business, Play 4 A Cause, through which the teens use video games to raise awareness about major diseases such as malaria. Play 4 A Cause also puts on fundraisers, recently helping River Grove Elementary School purchase a microscope. The young men often help other robotics teams that need support.

“It really makes me proud to see these boys, now young men, ready to take the world by storm and make a difference,” Kelly said.

Untitled-8 member Sean Kelly said his team, the first FIRST Tech Challenge team in Lake Oswego, has been working on its robot since September. But, the group has been trying to win state for four years.

“It’s really nice to have finally succeeded after all the effort,” said Sean, 16. “It’s really hard to build a robot.”

There were more than 100 teams vying to even compete at state, and Untitled-8 was among the 36 top teams of seventh- to 12th-graders in Oregon and Southwest Washington to earn that honor.

During the all-day state tournament — called Ring It Up! — teams put into action a robot that they designed and programmed to be strong, possess fine motor movements and think for itself.

Four robots take the field in alliances of two. Robots combat one another on a 12-by-12-foot playing field, jostling as they try to pick up plastic rings from a dispenser and hang them onto a rack that resembles a tic-tac-toe board. They earn extra points for placing three rings in a row. Players have 2 1/2 minutes to complete the task.

“It’s not quite like a robot war, although there is a certain degree of pushing and shoving going on in the competition,” said Bryan Kelly, Sean’s father.

Untitled-8’s robot is reminiscent of a Tyrannosaurus rex with small arms and a heavy body. It sports two arms instead of the usual one and the team bedecked it with LED lights and neon acrylic, plastic material that glows under ambient light.

All told, there are four Oregon teams heading to the world championship. Portland-based Batteries in Black, which is affiliated with Washington County 4-H, got first place at state.

There’s only one state championship in Oregon, and only two can advance. However, if there aren’t enough teams to make a state championship roster, teams can compete in other states’ tourneys. Two Oregon teams did just that — one from Beaverton and one from Newberg, each winning a spot at the world championships.

Oregon Tournaments and Outreach Program Director Cathy Swider said having four teams progress to state is unusual.

“This is just an amazing year for us,” Swider said.

by: SUBMITTED - Lakeridge High School robotics team Untitled-8 landed second place in the statewide FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) Championship Tournament on March 3 in Hillsboro, qualifying the five juniors for the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship next month. Untitled-8 team members, from left to right, are: Vincent Chia, Andrew Liu, Ben Case, Sean Kelly and Aaron Freyer.

How to help

To make a donation, go to the PayPal link on Untitled-8’s Play 4 A Cause website: Donations are tax deductible.

In other robot news

There are other robotics tournaments where Lake Oswego youths excel.

Lake Monsters Robotics, which represents students from Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools, placed seventh out of 59 teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition Ultimate Ascent Challenge March 8-9 in Portland. Making it to the top eight teams in qualification rounds is a personal team best for the Lake Monsters, said Vicky Thompson, marketing mentor for the Lake Monsters.

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