East Grand robotics team gears up for state competition in its first year
East Grand Middle School’s robotics competition team achieved something rather remarkable last weekend, managing to secure a spot at the Colorado FIRST Tech Challenge Championship tournament, set for this coming weekend.
“It is pretty amazing to be a rookie team going to the state competition,” Missy Quinn, East Grand Middle School technology teacher and one of two robotics team coaches, said. “I am so proud of the kids and their accomplishments.”
Rebecca Chernin, East Grand science teacher and robotics team coach, echoed her sentiments.
“It felt surreal,” Chernin said. “That they (the judges) could see a rookie team, and how much passion and time we have put into this, it gave me a heartwarming feeling. They wanted to show the kids that their hard work did not go unnoticed.”
The robotics team from East Grand, which goes by the team name Metal Minds, secured their slot at state after their most recent tournament outing in New Castle. While the youngsters placed 10th out of 11 teams on the day the judges recognized the outstanding work put in by the team’s project managers on an engineering notebook that is scored as part of the competition and presented East Grand with the tournament’s Think Award.
“Although they may be young in years they really know their gears,” read a statement from tournament judges in New Castle announcing the team’s state berth. “The judges think they have more than metal in their brains. The Think Award goes to East Grand, the Metal Minds.”
This weekend’s tournament is the state level championship in robotics and is a feather in the cap of the first year team of junior high students, who have spent this season competing against a field made up almost entirely of high school students. The state tournament will be held Saturday at Regis University in Denver.
Because this is the first year ever for East Grand’s robotics competition team, team coaches Chernin and Quinn were not certain as to the exact format of the event, but predicted the day would closely mirror the two other tournaments the team has already attended, albeit with more competitors and more robotics action.
The Metal Minds have already competed in two separate tournaments this year, last weekend’s outing in New Castle and another the previous week in Lafayette. Both tournaments followed a similar format. After arriving at the completion location and going through an initial robot review, analogous to weigh-ins before a wrestling tournament, each team is scheduled for a series of rounds with four teams competing in the tournament square each round.
Each round consists of a two competition elements. The first portion of the round has the robot moving autonomously based on pre-programed instructions from the students. The second portion has students physically controlling their robots with remote controllers while attempting to gather foam blocks, called glyphs, before stacking them in a predetermined location. Points are awarded based on multiple factors.
“Honestly, I just want the kids to enjoy the day and soak it all in,” Quinn said. “I want them to embrace the day, have fun and not be stressed. It is amazing we have made it this far.”
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