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Gorge teams advance to state robotics

 TEAMS COMPETE Saturday on the big table, on stage at Wy’east Middle School performing arts center. Emcee Ben Dane, an HRVHS senior, interviews participants.

TEAMS COMPETE Saturday on the big table, on stage at Wy’east Middle School performing arts center. Emcee Ben Dane, an HRVHS senior, interviews participants. Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.

Robotics teams Rainbow Tigers of Hood River Middle School and Robo Dragonz from May Street will advance to state along with nine other Gorge teams, following competition last weekend in Odell.

More than 300 kids aged 9-14 from around the Gorge showed off their robotic talents last weekend at Wy’east Middle School near Odell.

Fifty-four teams from around the region worked over the last several months as part of the international robotics competition known as First Lego League (FLL) to compete in one of the Columbia Gorge qualifying tournaments held Dec. 14 and 15.

Tournaments had also been planned for Dec. 7 and 8 at The Dalles Middle School but were canceled due to the snowy and icy weather in the Gorge.

“Canceling the tournaments was a tough decision for the North Wasco County School District #21 to make, but we were all concerned about the safety of teams traveling from as far away as Grass Valley and Klickitat to reach The Dalles in slick conditions,” said Jessica Metta, director for the FLL tournaments in the Gorge through her role as executive director of the Gorge Technology Alliance. The tournament planning team scrambled to accommodate as many teams as possible at a rescheduled tournament Dec. 14 at Wy’east.

“It was a lot of work, but it was important to all of the planning team to give the kids who have been working so hard for months a chance to compete.”

Ultimately, only 11 of the teams from The Dalles tournaments could not make the rescheduled one and will be entered into a weather lottery to send a few teams directly to the state tournaments.

At the Gorge FLL tournaments, each team demonstrated its robot’s capabilities on the competition table, was interviewed by a robot design panel, presented its natural disaster project and was assessed on teamwork skills in the FLL Core Values judging panel.

“All of the teams did a great job and impressed the judges, referees and tournament volunteers with their knowledge and teamwork,” Metta said. “Each tournament on Dec 14 and 15 generated its own separate award winners and a number of teams that advanced to the state tournaments.”

The Gorge FLL award winners include:

Rising Star award: Hood River Middle School Engineering Team #1 and Henkle Middle School Team #3

Core Values award: The 8 Disasters from Whitson Elementary and Henkle Middle School Team #2

Project award: The Geeks from Colonel Wright Elementary and Henkle Middle School Team #1

Robot Design award: Bananabots from Goldendale Middle School and The Chargers of Westside Elementary

Robot Performance award: The Hurricanes from Colonel Wright Elementary and RD2 from May Street Elementary

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After a full day of competition, the overall top teams were chosen to advance to the Oregon state tournaments on Jan. 18 or 19 in Hillsboro. The 11 teams from the Gorge heading to Hillsboro include:

Overall first-place champions: The Rainbow Tigers of Hood River Middle School and RD2 of May Street Elementary

Overall second-place champions: Waves of Fury from Goldendale Middle School and Robo Dragonz of May Street Elementary

Additional top teams: The 8 Disasters from Whitson Elementary, The Dalles Middle School Team C, the Hurricanes from Colonel Wright Elementary, Robo Mafia from Lyle/Dallesport and Henkle Middle School Teams #1, #2 and #3.

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