The group of more than a dozen Newberg High students has a new challenge before it this year

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Seniors Colee Hufschmid (left) and Paul Sperling do 'path testing' in anticipation of the NHS robotics team's next competition.

Hear ye, hear ye – all hail the Knights of the Round Cable.

This merry band of engineering whizzes has been working around the clock over the past few months to compete in various robotics competitions and now they are preparing for "super qualifiers" in the next month. In the back rooms of Newberg High School, the group led by senior captain Paul Sperling is preparing for a trip to state competition.

"We've been competing as a program in this league for the last 10 years," he said. "We're given a challenge and try to build a robot to complete it. The last few months since September we've been working on our bots for that challenge."

The challenge sounds simple but requires a deft touch and depth of knowledge when it comes to engineering a robot. It also takes a small army of engineers, machinists and coders to put the device together.

Teams from around the globe all have the same challenge this year: Build a robot that can stack four-inch by eight-inch Lego pieces on top of each other, along with a handful of other feats.

"We build the robot to stack those and there's some other stuff like vision targets that we'll be doing," Sperling said. "So basically we're just stacking Legos."

The Newberg team – dubbed the "Knights of the Round Cable" – had four competitions in league play during November and December. They followed that up with a strong performance at qualifiers in January, then won the Super Qualifier tournament last week against a field of 25 teams. Now they prepare for state on March 14 and 15 with an eye on making it to the international competition in April.

"The qualifying tournament in January is a lot like a district track meet," Dan Sperling, the team's faculty advisor and Paul's father, said. "With track you have your meets during the season and if you do well at districts you get to move on. That's how this works for us.

"Robotics has a good history here at Newberg High School. There are over 200 teams in the state of Oregon and it's in the thousands internationally. This has been going on for more than 10 years like this locally with a different competition each year."

Between 12 and 15 students are actively involved with this year's team and that's a lower number than usual. Newberg used to have enough participants for four different teams, but participation has dwindled.

Still, this passionate bunch of future engineers is proud of the robot they put together. It has spinning wheels to grab onto the Lego brick, an arm to reach down with a grabber and pick up the brick, and the engineered ability to move around and stack the bricks with ease.

The younger Sperling and many of his teammates have been passionate about robotics for years. Much of the team wants to study some form of engineering in college – primarily electrical engineering.

"I've always had a lot of fun tinkering around with stuff," Paul Sperling said. "In seventh or eighth grade I got a 3D printer and started messing around with it. My brother was on the team and it seemed to make sense, so I joined."

School briefs

Farm Bureau scholarships available

The Yamhill County Farm Bureau will award two separate $2,000 scholarships to students this year.

The scholarships are being offered to students who have finished at least one year of college pursuing a degree related to agriculture.

Those who apply for the scholarships must have a college grade-point average of 2.5 or better and be graduates of a Yamhill County high school, or their family must have lived in the county during their senior year of high school.

Application materials must include an official transcript and two references and more information is available at

PNMC offers scholarships

Providence Newberg Medical Center will award six $1,500 scholarships to area high school students this spring and those students are being invited to apply.

Seniors who plan on continuing their education to pursue careers in the healthcare industry can apply by visiting and filling out an application, with the deadline for mailing it to PNMC set for March 22.

Students who live throughout Yamhill and Washington counties are welcome to apply for the scholarships, which have been distributed since 2003.

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