The Presidents Day weekend was a busy one for the North Marion Voltmasters.
Three new robotics teams, along with their robots, joined the North Marion High School roster: Teams C (The Claw), D (DumDum), and E (The Beast), along with Team B (Scorpion), attended the rookies-only tournament on Feb. 18 at Dallas High School.
Though the varsity squad didn't enter its robot, Juggernaut, some of the team members traveled to Dallas to support the younger teams.
The Scorpions made their way through the qualifying rounds and when it all over, Samantha Patton was the last member standing, alone in first place.
And with that finish, Patton had the first choices in selecting other teams to join her alliance heading into the quarterfinals. Her alliance would make it to the finals before falling, earning a second place.
Teams C, with members Daniel Gonzalez, Brice Ferrell and Grace Bramel, finished in seventh place, while Team D's Hunter Wierstra and Beau Wilson managed to take 10th.
But the newbie tourney wasn't the end of the robotics weekend.
All North Marion robots attended the rescheduled Sandy tournament on Feb. 20 "and most performed respectably against far more experienced teams," said adviser Sherie Moran. "For some members that had been unable to attend the rookie tournament, it was a bit overwhelming, but they still put in a solid showing."
Teams C and E were able to select their own alliances going into the quarterfinals and although none of the teams made it to the semifinals, "a lot was learned about engineering, robotics and computer science," said Moran.
She added that, thanks to the Presidents Day weekend events, everyone better understood the challenges and were prepared for hosting the Feb. 25 tournament.
"Running a tournament is way different than just watching or participating in one," Moran said. "This is my second year being involved in the VEX robotics tournament circuit and you look at things differently as a host than you do as a coach or spectator, because if it goes well, no one notices, but if it goes badly everyone does!"
But after the event, Moran said all the feedback she's heard said that North Marion ran a professional event that went smoothly and efficiently. Attendees, participants and volunteers had a great time.
Even with their coach busy with hosting duties, the young teams did well and ended up in the middle of the pack at the end of the qualification matches, with the lowest of the five teams beating at least 10 teams and the top team, led by the Scorpion (Team B) ranked at seventh place against some stiff competition. The teams from Molalla, West Salem, Silverton and Sandy took the other top positions and got to be Alliance captains heading into the quarterfinals.
Three of the other North Marion teams were also lucky enough to make it to the quarterfinals and are excited to try again at state tournament, which will be held at Chemeketa Community College on March 10 and 11.
Without missing a beat, the Voltmasters returned to the classroom to make further modifications to their robots, programs and strategies, more determined than ever to improve their standing and chances for a favorable alliance.
"If nothing else, our little club doesn't quit," Moran said, "and we look forward to growing more and doing better at each and every event."
Anyone who would like to learn more about what is getting students excited to enter the field of robotics is invited to volunteer or sponsor a team.