Robotics club earns award at tournament
December 21, 2017
Last Saturday your Wahkiakum 4H Robotics Club sent its FIRST Tech Challenge team, the Wahkiakum Mecha-Mules, to Tacoma for the Watt Interleague tournament to compete with 36 other schools for the eight slots to advance to the State tournament in February. Teams from around southwest Washington were there: Olympia School District was the most represented with eight teams, followed by Tacoma with five teams and North Thurston with four and Enumclaw with three, plus Camas and Evergreen each sent two teams and many districts sent one. Our day started with a real scare - our wheels were locked ¨on¨ during the Field Inspection and we were in danger of being DQ'd before we ever even started! This was fixed with a reboot of our software - cool and calm Chuck - whew!. Six hours later, after the qualifying matches were done, with unflappable Camille driving and Morgan operating the arm every time, we had won four of our five matches (losing that one by only one point) and were sitting in 8th place; very good for a David amongst the Goliaths.
In addition to the robot performance, each team presented in closed-door sessions in the early morning to panels of judges their engineering plan, business plan, community involvement plan, and engineering notebook. The awards are based on a combination of robot performance, presentation, team attitude (captured by the phrase: Gracious Professionalism) and quality of the engineering notebook. As the competition day wore on, we were visited by various judges asking questions of the team - we didn't think much about this at the time. We later learned that they were checking us out - the 15 judges had each seen only about one third of the teams so they visited with the teams-in-contention they had not yet already seen in person.
In the early evening, as the awards were being announced we were pleased to hear we were second place for the Motivate Award (Sparking others to embrace the culture of FIRST!), second in the Connect Award ( Connecting the dots between community, FIRST, and the diversity of the engineering world ), and second in the Think Award (Removing engineering obstacles through creative thinking). Our many field trips and presentation opportunities sponsored by 4H helped us with these first two, and Morgan's incredible tenacity in keeping our engineering notebook going was an important factor in all of these awards. So, when it came time for the top award we were hoping maybe for a third place since it involves doing well in all of the other award categories plus doing well in the competition.
When they announce awards at FIRST they lead them off with a paragraph telling why the recipient was chosen, without quite naming them, but giving hints ... just imagine as we heard words like ¨wagon¨ (our presentation involved decorating a wagon to look like a robot), ¨robot hats¨ (Lydia and Damaris began our presentation with a mini-skit as robots wearing hats made by Jessica Vik), and ¨wohbot¨ (a reference to our robot's name of Wally Wohbot and to the robotics tournament we are co-hosting this spring with Wahkiakum School district). Just like in the movie Spare Parts, when our name was finally read out, the crowd cheered for us while we sat there, stunned.
As it says in the FIRST Tech Manual, the Inspire Award ¨is given to the Team that truly embodied the challenge of the FIRST Tech Challenge program. The Team that receives this award is a strong ambassador for FIRST programs and a role model FIRST Tech Challenge Team. This Team is a top contender for many other judged awards and is a gracious competitor. The Inspire Award winner is an inspiration to other Teams, acting with Gracious Professionalism® both on and off the Playing Field. This Team is able to communicate their experiences, enthusiasm and knowledge to other Teams, sponsors, their community, and the Judges. Working as a unit, this Team will have demonstrated success in accomplishing the task of designing and building a Robot.¨ The 15 judges had chosen us as the best team at the tournament. We are honored, and humbled. We represented Wahkiakum and our sponsors well. Thanks everyone for supporting us.
Next up is a trip to the state FTC tournament on February 11 (Sunday) in Kent. After that, in March we are co-hosting at Wahkiakum HS our first annual Wahkiakum Wohbot Wohundup robotics tournament (details online) and then participating in the M.A.T.E. underwater tournament in Federal Way in May, and HayezDayez in Camas in June. Come check us out. We generally meet Thursdays after school in the high school Tech Lab.