THE BEE has followed the robotics team since it was in grade school at Winterhaven -- and at CHS, it's still competing

DAVID F. ASHTON - Taking the test-chassis of their robot out for a drive were CHS seniors and Pigmice members Zeke Baird and Kodi Clair. As extra-curricular educational programs at our schools again come to life, members of the Cleveland High School (CHS) robotics team, the Pigmice Robotics Club (FIRST Robotics Competition Team #2733) were building their robot in the first week of March for a "live in-person" competition in Wilsonville.

The club was started at CHS in 2008 by students who'd graduated from Winterhaven Middle School in Brooklyn, after becoming the 2007 FIRST Lego League Robotics World Champion under the same "Pigmice" name. THE BEE has been covering them from the start.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Now having the use of the CHS Wood Shop after school gives the Pigmice team more space to experiment, work, and build robots. The club started in a small outbuilding, but now is able to use the CHS Wood Shop, giving them significantly more room to build their robots.

"We're rebuilding our club this year; that's pretty impressive, considering that last year, it was all online, and only about five people showed up consistently," remarked their spokesperson, CHS senior Victor Huynh – the team's Marketing and Outreach Captain, and Team Co-Captain.

"This year, with about 45 members; our club is booming! And these students are really interested in the program," Huynh told THE BEE. "I joined the team in ninth grade, drawn to it at the CHS Club Fair where they were driving this 'Roomba' looking thing around the hallway!

DAVID F. ASHTON - In the Pigmice Computer-Aided Design lab we found Zeqe Golomd, Carson St. Amand, Miles Ehrbar, Beatrice Jesudason, and Mason Loveland. "I've stayed with it, because one of the missions of FIRST is building personal skills like leadership, communication, and teamwork – these are all really essential in the real world," Huynh said. "And, we're given the opportunity to learn technical skills, like programming and computer-aided design technologies – plus mechanical and electronic engineering. These all translate well both in higher education, and as we go into the 'real world' of work."

This year's FIRST challenge is called "Rapid React". It's essentially a game in which the robots, remotely-controlled by drivers and operators, shoot a large fuzzy ball into a target to earn points. "This year we also have the added 'bars challenge' – it's like having robots climb inclined monkey bars!"

DAVID F. ASHTON - Two Pigmice team members - freshman Nathan Julian and sophomore Owen McNary-Sprague - were here troubleshooting a circuit board for their robot. Later reporting on the outcome of their competition on March 11 and 12, Team Coach J.J. Heldmann conceded that Team Pigmice had a rough start, because their shop was flooded by rainwater the day before the competition. Fortunately, their robot wasn't damaged.

Then, due to computer communication issues, their robot sat out two practice matches. But, by their sixth match, they got their robot to do the full traversal climb on the "monkey bars".

"We ended the first day ranked 26th, but literally climbed our way up to 18th by the end of qualifying matches on Saturday, and got selected by teams in our 'Alliance' (group of teams from other schools) to be in the playoffs," Heldmann told THE BEE.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Although many team members were new to the Pigmice Robotics Club, all of them pitched in to make their robot ready for competition. Alas, they didn't make it past the quarterfinals. "But, spirits remained high throughout the tournament, and all team members had a fantastic time and learned so much," Heldmann reflected. "Keep in mind, only three of our team of 45+ members had ever attended an FRC competition before, so this was all very new to most of them."

They didn't walk away empty-handed: The Pigmice team was presented the "Entrepreneurship Award", which celebrates the entrepreneurial spirit, and recognizes a team which has developed a comprehensive business plan.

To learn more about Pigmice, and how to support them, go online –

And, to watch the team prepare for competition, here's a brief BEE video – 

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