HRVHS robotics runs the table at League

Teams gather for the opening ceremonies during Saturday’s League First Technology competition. A total of 24 teams participated.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
Teams gather for the opening ceremonies during Saturday’s League First Technology competition. A total of 24 teams participated.

The hosting Hood River Valley High School robotics teams dominated the on-field play and the awards section of Saturday’s League First Technology competition.

Team SteelHead was ranked first after preliminaries and won the 12 team playoff.

After five qualifying rounds, team SteelHead was ranked first with Occam’s Razor second, both from HRVHS. SteelHead chose Fig Neutrons from HRVHS and Occam’s Razor selected Men In Green, also from HRVHS, for their alliances to complete the tournament in a head to head best out of three matches.


One corner of the cafeteria served as proving ground for FTC teams. Here, teams from Hood River and The Dalles share the test course area, which is a “shoes off” zone.

The first match went to SteelHead with a new high game score of 285. The second match was a nail bitter with Occam’s Razor taking it by one point. The third and final match went to SteelHead for the win, according to Jeff Blackman, HRVHS engineering teacher and founder of FTC programs in the Gorge.

Half the teams advanced, including six teams from Hood River. The next level is super qualifiers Feb. 13 and 14 in Hillsboro; the state tournament will be Feb. 27 and 28.

Other teams advancing are:

Sa-Bot-Age from The Dalles, Shermanators from Sherman County, Automatons from Bend, The Outlaws from Sisters, Bazinga Bots from The Dalles, Robohawks, Robotic Quazer Alliance, Killa Bots, and Challenge Accepted from Hood River.

Awards also recognize design, teamwork and community service. The PTC Design Award went to SteelHead, while Sa-Bot-Age earned the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award and Bazinga! Bots from The Dalles took the Connect Award.

Men in Green from HRVHS took the Think Award while the Inspire Award went to Occam’s Razor.

HRVHS commons, cafeteria and gymnasium buzzed with activity in the first League event held at the school.


Engineering teacher and FTC guru Jeff Blackman, center, confers Saturday with fellow event officials in the HRVHS gymnasium. Rules and procedures, as well as precise course set up, got plenty of last-minute review before judging went from table top to field competition.

“Fields,” or robot courses, were set up on the floor of the Ed Vannet Court, and after opening ceremonies introducing all 24 teams, they took turns pitting their robots in acts of climbing and collecting objects.

It was the largest STEM event yet held in the Gorge. STEM stands for Science Technology Engineer and Mathematics. In robotics, teams are told in the fall what the test will be, and then work to design a compact remote-controlled robot that can accomplish the tasks — this year mimicking mountain search and rescue techniques. Throughout the fall and winter, students participate in qualifying rounds, including the regionals held Jan. 9 at Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.

“This is just so much fun,” said Ruben Gonzaga, a junior on Men in Green and emcee for Saturday’s event. “I saw that right away when I got involved, and have really found my place.” He’s been in robotics since elementary school, which along with middle school teams compete in the level known as First Lego League.

“I’m a super competitive person, so I’ve really enjoyed it, but because of the emphasis on teamwork it’s also a good program for a person who is not competitive but wants a chance to excel,” Gonzaga said.

For the past four months, it fell to Gonzaga and his teammates to arrange the qualifying and final event locations, and provide all teams with necessary information. Teams from the area have competed at qualifiers for years, but this year schools in Hood River, Wasco and Sherman counties formed a league.

The Men in Green also had to handle details such as food and the sound system, and making sure volunteers are in place. Community members served as judges at both the WAAAM and HRVHS events.

“It’s been a lot of work but it’s gone really well,” Gonzaga said. “We were super lucky to have WAAAM and (the high school) is a great location because we have bleachers which is better for spectators.”

FTC rules also require that League events be held at a school.

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