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Two Southeast FIRST Robotics teams distinguish themselves in regional competition

DAVID F. ASHTON - Victor Huynh, Hunter Key, Dexter Carpenter, Caleb Eby, Brendan Burkhart, of the Cleveland High Pigmice FIRST Robotics Team 2733, show off their robot. Few Portland high schools had teams who qualified for the "FIRST Robotics Competition Oregon" regional games this season, which were held once again at Lake Oswego High School on March 29-30.

But two local teams proudly did qualify to participate there again this year.

One of the two was the FIRST Robotics Team 1432, the "Metal Beavers" – formerly affiliated with Franklin High School, before they were inexplicably cast out in 2010, only to find a home at the Lents Knights of Pythias Ivanhoe Lodge, and fiscal sponsorship from the Southeast Portland Rotary Club Foundation. The other team was once again Cleveland High's FIRST Robotic Team 2733, the "Pigmice".

The FIRST Robotics Competition program, calling itself "A Celebration of Space, Innovation & STEM Inspiration", is presented by Oregon Robotics Tournament Outreach Program (ORTOP).

"This is the last district event here in Oregon; and, after today, and the teams are ranked, and the top teams will go to the championships in Olympia, Washington," said ORTOP Executive Director David Perry. One of them did; the Cleveland High "Pigmice" advanced through levels of competition to the Nationals in Houston, in in the third week of April.

It all begins in January of each year, when each high school robotics team is challenged to build a robot that will fulfill the mission of a story line; this year's competition was called "Deep Space", Perry explained. The object was for robot remote-control operators to cross an alien planet (the playing field), gather "cargo", and load it onto space ships, all within less than three minutes.

"In addition to giving students the opportunity to learn math, scientific, technical, and business skills, this program connects young people with the local business and tech community, who support the program," Perry said. "Both the Metal Beavers and Pigmice teams made strong robot entries this year."

"Metal Beavers" compete well

DAVID F. ASHTON - In their pit, FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1432, the Metal Beavers, are crew members J.R. Surban, Jacob Purvis, Nathaniel Lyons, and Ammon Corpron, getting ready for another match. "I've been really happy to see the 'Metal Beavers' with a real solid robot," Perry commented. "As a Lents neighborhood native, I love seeing them doing well – as their team is growing, and continues to have great mentors."

In the pit area, FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1432 "Metal Beavers" were readying their robot for competition.

"We've done pretty well up until now," remarked J.R. Surban, now a senior at Franklin High School, as well as the team's captain, driving coach, and part of the mechanical team.

"My personal goals are to help develop our team members by sharing what I've learned with those with less experience, helping them learn both the technical aspects of robots, and the strategies needed to do well in competition," Surban said.

The a team technician and player, Ammon Corpron, a student at the First Class Clackamas Teens School, added, "Even if we lose, we have good teamwork opportunities. A lot of being in these competitions is learning to become graciously professional, while learning how to do better next season!"

In the local competition held earlier in Oregon City, the Metal Beavers ranked #8 out of 36 teams. In Lake Oswego, out of 36 teams, they moved from the #32 rank up to the #21 rank; so they didn't go on to the Regional Finals in Spokane.

Learn more about the Metal Beavers online –

Pigmice go to U.S. Nationals

About Cleveland High's team, ORTOP's Perry said, "I have a special place in my heart for the Pigmice, too; I was working at OMSI in 2006, the year that Pigmice swept FIRST Lego League World Championships in Houston." At that time they were based at Winterhaven School in the Brooklyn neighborhood.

Pigmice Team Captain Dexter Carpenter spoke with THE BEE in their pit before heading out to compete. "It's going pretty good this year. It's one of our best seasons yet – being able to do everything well this year.

"The best part of this competition is working with our student team's members," Carpenter said. "Instead of adult teachers, it's older students teaching younger ones, which helps both the teachers and the learners prepare for life after school."

Being involved in the competition gives students both "hard" technical skills and "soft" personal relationship proficiency, Carpenter observed. "Beyond learning the hands-on stuff of designing, building, programming, and operating the robot, our team members also learn business like communications, and finance – training that's difficult to get in a classroom setting."

The Pigmice did accumulate enough points through the season that they qualified for the PNW championships in Spokane, ranking 18 of 36. From there, they headed to Houston for the 2019 FIRST Championships, April 17-20, being ranked 37th out of 66 teams after one day of qualifications. "In Houston, the Pigmice were Finalists in the Turing Division; and advanced from Qualifications to Eliminations, and won in Quarter and Semifinals, which advanced us to Finals – where we lost," reported volunteer Cindi Carrell.

"We received the Turing Finalist award with a statue, plaque, and medals, for all the team," Carrell said after the competition. "We're grateful for Team 1432 [the Metal Beavers], which loaned us their robot crate for shipping our robot to Houston; it was great to have their support!"

Keep in touch with Pigmice online –

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