Wilsonville's Squeaky Wheelz earns second-place trophy

Six Lego robotics teams from the West Linn-Wilsonville School District earned the right to compete in the Intel Oregon FIRST Lego League Championship Tournament. Five of those teams brought trophies home from the tournament.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Members of Wilsonville's Squeaky Wheelz team earned a second-place trophy at a state Lego robotics competition held Jan. 18. Back row, from left, Shane Bresnahan, Briggs Moore, Cameron Castillo and Logan Carpenter. Front row, from left Justin Carpenter and Sarthak Kadam.The event drew 119 teams from across the state. Each team earned its spot at the tournament by winning regional tournaments held earlier. More than 3,300 students on 472 teams from throughout the state competed in December at qualifying tournaments. The top 25 percent of those teams, a total of 119, competed Jan. 18 and 19 in Hillsboro.

Each team comprises four to 10 students ages 9 to 14. Teams were given about three months to design, build and program a small robot and to complete a required scientific research project. Each team purchased Lego robotics kits to build a customized robot to compete against other robots in tournament challenges.

This year, the competition theme was “Nature’s Fury.” Each team chose a type of natural disaster, such as tornadoes or wildfires, researched it and developed a strategy to prepare for or to respond to that disaster. The competition consists of three parts: robot challenges, presentations of their research and opportunities to showcase teamwork skills.

WL-WV teams placed highly in each of those three areas.

Wilsonville’s Squeaky Wheelz team, coached by Heather Castillo, earned second place for its project about earthquakes and the innovative solution the team designed.

“They studied earthquakes and talked to some local disaster experts and came up with a great product,” Castillo said.

But don’t expect to hear any details about that product — not yet, anyway.

“We don’t want to tell what our idea is publicly yet because we are going to try to patent the idea and take it to market,” Castillo said. “The judges at the competition were very impressed and thought our idea would truly make a difference to help save lives in an emergency situation.”

Squeaky Wheelz has applied for FIRST’s Global Innovation award, worth $20,000 and given to a team that has an innovative solution that can solve a real-world problem.

Needless to say, Squeaky Wheelz team members are eager to return to the arena next year.

“Starting in August, when the new challenge is released, we will start the fun all over again with a new research project and new robot missions,” Castillo said. “We are going to be using a new robot ‘brain’ next year, so we will start doing some training on that over the summer.”

A team from Three Rivers Charter School, Melting Plastic, took second in the robot design/programming category.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Melting Plastic, a team from Three Rivers Charter School, earned second place for their programming during the Lego robotics state competition held Jan. 18. Back row, coach Kerry Sovde and mentor Songtao Xia. Middle row, from left, Ethan Sovde, Evan Khoo, Ethan Walhood and Zach Gilburne. In front, Victor Xia and Eric Xia (kneeling).“The Three Rivers Charter School teams had a fun day competing,” said Melting Plastic coach Kerry Sovde. “It was a great way to end the kids’ season, which had begun back in September.”

Team members researched wildfires and created a concept for a wildfire evacuation jacket.

The team’s second-place trophy recognized the team for using outstanding programming principles, including clean, concise and reusable code that allows their robot to perform challenge missions, Sovde said.

Another team from Three Rivers, Clockwork, also attended the competition, with a project centered on water filtration. Although Clockwork members did not walk away with a trophy, they did have a great experience.

“Both teams enjoyed this year’s Nature’s Fury challenge and are already looking forward to next year’s challenge,” Sovde said.

Three teams from West Linn also competed. Athey Creek Middle School’s team, ACES, earned a second-place award for their project presentation.

“The team had a great day, and we are so proud of them,” said coach Sally LeBlanc.

Two teams represented Rosemont Ridge Middle School. Lego Megos won first place for their robot’s mechanical design. GIRLS won second place for teamwork, one of the FIRST Lego League’s core values.

Although the competition season is over for Lego robotics, it is just beginning for high school robotics teams. The West Linn-Wilsonville School District has one team, known as Error Code Xero, which is currently designing and building a robot. The build season continues until Feb. 3, with competition beginning shortly after. Last year, Error Code Xero advanced to international last spring.

Learn more about FIRST robotics online at

By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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