Robotics rule: A blue ribbon effort – with infrared

Congratulations to the Hood River Valley High School FTC robotics team, which has now established a Northwest presence, following its victory at the Idaho State First Technology Challenge event on Feb. 15.

The win comes two weeks before the Oregon championships, and qualifies the team for a trip to the Super Regional in Sacramento, Calif., March 20-22.

Team members are Taylor Cramer, Tony Cohn, Marten Sova, Marcus Crouch, Naomi Greenwald, Delia Dolan, Sam Wiley, Connor Dunn, Josh True and Martin Lanthaler, all seniors. (Lanthaler is an exchange student from Italy.)

The team’s goal is the World Championship in Atlanta, Ga.

Most of us haven’t had a chance to see the robot in action, but in a nutshell, this is what the team can make this nimble and sophisticated device do in a two-minute period: An infrared sensor seeks out a randomly placed beacon, and drops a plastic cube in a box above it, then parks on a bridge. The robot drives around collecting plastic cubes and dropping them onto a teeter-totter with boxes on it. It also raises a flag, and hooks onto a metal pull up bar and lifts itself.

But the Idaho victory was more than what the team and its robot did on the course: teamwork, community service, and professionalism are critical elements in the Inspire award, which is the virtual championship, at Idaho.

The elder students take their knowledge on the road to younger robotics classes around the Gorge. It’s a mentorship that starts with advisor Jeff Blackman and other adult engineers, teachers and other volunteers who have nurtured this year’s seniors since they were in elementary and middle school. It’s all paying off in a big way for Hood River robotics.

Information on how to support the Blackhawks as they plan to travel to Super Regional can be found on page A1.

This is progressive, community-influenced learning at its finest.

Flags Lowered: Spc. John A. Pelham

Gov. John Kitzhaber today ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Monday, Feb. 24, in honor of Army Specialist John A. Pelham of Portland.

“This is a tragic loss for Oregon, and we are indebted to Spc. Pelham for proudly serving our state and our nation,” said Kitzhaber. “My thoughts are with his family and his unit during this difficult time. I ask all Oregonians to pause on Monday to remember Spc. Pelham and honor both his sacrifice and his legacy of service.”

Spc. Pelham died on Feb. 12 in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg.

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