Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

June 2, 2011

Ronan high school robotics are best in world

By Lailani Upham

(L to R in front) Tyler Sassaman, Collin Hardy, Justin Probst, Troy McMillan, Thane Tobol, Alex Killian and Hunter Shima share a snap shot with other team members after the championship tournament. (Courtesy photo)
(L to R in front) Tyler Sassaman, Collin Hardy, Justin Probst, Troy McMillan, Thane Tobol, Alex Killian and Hunter Shima share a snap shot with other team members after the championship tournament. (Courtesy photo)

RONAN — High school teams from the United States, Canada, and Mexico to the Netherlands competed in the First Tech Challenge last month in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Ronan High School robotics team took the title after long hours of dedication and teamwork right here in Ronan.

The SD30 Robotic team from RHS brought home the World Championship Inspire award from the annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship tournament.

The team competed in a state FIRST Robotics tournament in Bozeman earlier this year where many of the team members said they felt nervous and unaware of what to truly expect. The winning at the state tournament turned out to be a grounding for what was to come.

According to FIRST officials, there were 2,075 teams and 51,875 high school students at the 2011 FIRST Robotics competition.

The days were long and at times exhausting, with back-to-back competition, according team member Tyler Sassaman, freshman. “It was not easy, you have to apply yourself and take time and practice,” Sassaman explained.

RHS competed in the Tech Challenge that was separated in two divisions with a total of 128 teams.

The FTC is designed for head-to-head competition where teams are responsible for designing, building, and programming robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

Freshman, Justin Probst said he caught the fever in middle school after walking into the tech room, “Seeing all the stuff, I thought it was so cool and wanted to do it,” he said. Probst said he worked on putting things together at home and helped his dad working on cars, so the project seemed to be a natural passion.

(L to R) Robotic team drivers Justin Probst, Thane Tobol and Troy McMillan prepare for tournament competition at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri in April. (Courtesy photo)
(L to R) Robotic team drivers Justin Probst, Thane Tobol and Troy McMillan prepare for tournament competition at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri in April. (Courtesy photo)

This year’s FTC challenge called “Get over it,” used a combination of sensors, including infrared tracking (IR), line following, magnet seeking, ultrasonic, touch, and more, according to FIRST.

The students program their robots to operate in both autonomous and tele-operated modes over a raised center goal. Teams must complete movements against their opponents using both preprogrammed robot movements and remote control.

Thane Tobol toiled over the programming aspect, “It was very time consuming and you have to get everything perfect; every comma, period and symbol has to be just right or you throw the whole program off,” he explained. The programming software used by Tobol was Robot C software. “I started to learn this software about three years ago and finally understood it this year,” he said.

According to Jesse Gray, RHS Robotics Advisor, many of the RHS robotics students began their technology experience and education in the Ronan Middle School.

Gray started teaching technology at the Ronan Middle School over seven years ago, where he remained for two years, before moving into the high school teaching position. He says many of the students he has been teaching in his classrooms for much of the time have moved right along with him.

“The students began practicing back in September and building base robots. It was an everyday thing for them. They worked some days after school too,” Gray explained.

The competition at the National FIRST tournament seemed to go neck and neck with other teams. “Some of the matches we won only by two points,” Gray said.

Ronan High School's World champion robot sits on display in the school trophy case. The robot was years in the making and a few months to fine-tune it to champ status, according to Jesse Gray RHS Robotics Advisor. (Lailani Upham photo)
Ronan High School's World champion robot sits on display in the school trophy case. The robot was years in the making and a few months to fine-tune it to champ status, according to Jesse Gray RHS Robotics Advisor. (Lailani Upham photo)

“At the world competition we didn’t know what to expect. We started scouting around the teams and saw that tough competition,” Tobol said. It didn’t take long after a few scrutinizing rounds; and the boys pulled together and agreed they had a shot at the title.

The matches last two minutes and 40 seconds, with a 40-second autonomous period followed by a two-minute tele-operated or remote control period. Teams earn the most points through a balance act, where points are tallied when a team makes contact with their own bridge and sends their robots and goal on top of the bridges.

In the final match the RHS team won by 119 - 50.

The FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship Inspire Award, recognizes excellence in robot design and teamwork. Student teams earn honors for design excellence, competitive play, teamwork and partnerships.

The FIRST organization that inspires young people’s interest and participation in science and technology was founded by inventor Dean Kamen.

“We continue to be impressed by the level of dedication, collaboration and the high caliber of problem-solving skills among our FIRST students,” said Kamen. “These young innovators will be handling the complex challenges of the 21st Century and bolstering our global economy with new research, inventions and jobs. Every year, we celebrate the achievements of the best young minds in science and innovation at the FIRST Championship,” added Kamen.

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