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North Marion High School students hone skills, friendships through robotics competitions.

COURTESY PHOTO: JILLIAN DALEY - Robo kids joke: Jessica Alvarez, left, a sophomore, and Ambar Benito, a freshman, joke together during a robotics club meeting after school. North Marion High School's robotics teams aren't just about racking up the trophy hardware at tournaments.

These students share a love for robo know-how, under the guidance of adviser Sherie Moran, and her teams participate in robotics to gain career skills in coding and building while enjoying a community of fellow tech enthusiasts.

"It's awesome to be around people who have creative ideas that can benefit humanity," senior Raymond Magana said.

That being said, the teams actually did really well during a Jan. 17 VEX Robotics Competition, a home tournament, earning second place and an invitation to compete at state. The team that can most quickly and accurately complete a set of tasks (or more of those tasks) walks away with the win. Sometimes, a team unites in what's called an "alliance" with a second team, facing off against two other aligned teams for an even larger, mightier battle of the bots.

North Marion's robotics teams recognized

Operating "The Arnold" bot, North Marion teams 1812A and 1812Z stood in an alliance against a dual-school alliance (The Dalles and North Salem).

"Both alliances worked hard for the final points 60-68," Moran said. "Please give Shawn Ostrander, Josh Williamson, and Vesily Anfilofieff of Team 1812A, and Alex Urena, Andy Sanchez, and Christopher Perea of Team 1812Z special second-place kudos."

Ostrander, a senior, and Williamson, a freshman, admit that they are a little annoyed that they didn't trounce The Dalles and North Salem.COURTESY PHOTO: SHERIE MORAN - Robo photo by Sheri Moran: Team 1812 (with the robot, The Arnold) won the Robot Skills Challenge on Jan. 17 at a home tournament. Above, from left to right, are the team members: Raymond Magana, David Snow, Thomas Bonser, and Kevin Guzman. Vesily Anfilofieff is not pictured.

"In the last five seconds, we lost — that's what cost us the win, one mistake at the end," Ostrander said.

"We lost by eight points," Williams commiserated.

Moran also noted that North Marion Team 1812D just received an invitation to the Platinum Division at Oregon VEX State.

"The team was invited based on the fact that the 'winner' at a tournament in Sandy had already qualified, so, to fill the spot, they pulled the highest-scoring team from the Robot Skills Challenge," Moran explained. "Congrats to Thomas Bonser, Joseph Havel, David Snow, Kevin Guzma and Raymond Magana." Other teams also put in a strong showing.

Sergio Resendiz, Sanchez, and Urena, all sophomores, joke about how their robot may look basic, but it actually functions better than the ones with finicky extra features.

"Ours is really simple, and when we beat them, it's fun," Urena said, smiling. "Sometimes, simple is better because the other ones have problems."

Jessica Alvarez, a sophomore, and Ambar Benito, a freshman, joke together during a robotics club meeting after school.

Gaining skills and friendships

Even if not every tournament turns out as planned, team members, in general, relish being a robo warrior, capable of coding, building and driving a robot and connecting with like-minded folks while doing so.

"I've made more friends doing robotics because we're all sharing something in common," Williamson noted.

Team 1812X's Jessica Alvarez, a sophomore, and Ambar Benito, a freshman, say robotics just offers so much to students.

"We learn from our mistakes and how we can do better," Alvarez noted.

"How to work through problems, finding out what the problem is and how to fix it" is another key lesson, Benito added.

Bonser, a senior, also delights in problem solving, making speed and torque adjustments possible with differing types of cogs and wheels. More specifically, one robot once struggled to lift items without tipping while completing tasks in tournaments, so it now has two arms with joints like elbows that raise up, keeping the base stable.

"The original idea behind [calling it The Arnold] was that the arms look like they're flexing," Bonser said, offering a quick demonstration of the robust machine's arm movements.

One of the things that students loved the best was Moran herself who is "fun to be around," according to Resendiz. Sanchez agreed.

"The best part about Ms. Moran is her sarcasm," Sanchez said. "Ms. Moran fits all standards."

Moran, the primary coach for robotics, also receives support from co-adviser JR Rogers and volunteers including Remy Strapp, a high school math teacher. Strapp recently thanked the advisers after helping with the set up for the tournament.

"I was amazed at how much work must have gone into making this event run smoothly," Strapp said. "The energy in the room was palpable … Kudos to Sherie and JR for giving our students the opportunity to flex their brain muscles on a three-day weekend."

To share a story about North Marion School District, contact Communications Specialist Jillian Daley at 503-678-7138 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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