Dozens of high school robotics teams flocked to First Tech Challenge super-qualifier tournaments for the right to go to state this weekend.

Teenagers from around the state competed in one of two day-long events, where pairs of robots engaged in this year’s challenge (four robots, eight goals, four hundred wiffle balls). Three teams from the engineering program at Hood River Valley High School qualified for state competition: Occam’s Razor, Men in Green, and Transformers. State competition will take place March 7-8 at Benson Polytechnic High School in Portland.

FIRST Tech challenge is a worldwide competition where students construct robots to complete challenges. The goal of the organization is to promote STEM learning in students. The robots constructed by HRV students are made entirely from scratch, using materials available in Jeff Blackman’s classroom: steel, plexiglass, aluminum, lexan, wood, and more. Students create custom parts for their robots using a 3D Printer, and a Laser cutter allows them to etch or slice wood, cardboard, plastic, or glass with amazing precision.

Students who participate in FIRST Tech Challenge, or FTC, increase their skills in construction, design, problem-solving, computer programming, and teamwork. All three of the qualifying teams exemplify these traits. In competition, teams are judged not only on how their robot performs, but also on how they inspire and motivate other students towards STEM involvement. The FIRST mantra of “gracious professionalism” is always present. Aside from building a competitive robot, teams must also commit to outreach, the act of promoting STEM in the community and with other students.

At super-qualifier, Men in Green went undefeated, with a record of 612 points in one game. The team took first place at the McMinnville tournament in January.

The next day, Occam’s Razor advanced with second-place Inspire award, which is granted for community outreach. Their list of accomplishments is long: Members have, among other things, run a summer day camp for young engineers, coordinated volunteers for middle school robotics teams, organized a STEM fair downtown last summer, attended the Gorge Wind Challenge, hosted scrimmages in HRV classrooms, counseled at a 3D printing camp, and mentored middle-school students throughout the FLL (FIRST Lego League) season. Occam’s Razor also took home the Control Award, which recognizes a unique and effective control system for the robot’s movement.

“Occam’s Razor has shamed the competition,” said a judge on Sunday. The team also placed fourth in overall competition.

Transformers, a team composed entirely of freshmen, also qualified at Saturday’s competition.

HELP THE TEAMS

The three teams are grateful for the support of their parents, teachers, and community. Community members can support HRV robotics by “liking” Occam’s Razor on facebook at “Occam’s Razor”, or purchasing an Occam’s Razor T-shirt for just $20 (To order yours, contact Olivia Acosta at Livifish@rocketmail.com). HRV can always use more volunteers and community support. To see how you can get involved in HRV engineering, contact Jeff Blackman at Jeff.Blackman@hoodriver.k12.or.us.

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