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Robotics teams from Naselle and Wahkiakum High Schools to compete in international event

Robotic teams from Wahkiakum High School and Naselle High School got some exciting news when they learned they were headed to Maryland in June for an international underwater robotics competition after qualifying at a regional event at the Cathlamet Pool on Friday.

The two teams will compete against more than 100 other teams at the International SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Maryland on June 4-5. The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, according to Ron Wright, who leads the robotics program at Wahkiakum School District and Wahkiakum 4-H and who organized the event in Cathlamet.

When the closest qualifying event that Wright could find was in Salt Lake City, he reached out to the SeaPerch organization and asked if he could host an event here. Yes, they said, and while initially Wright was told that only the winning team would get to head to the east coast, last Monday he learned they had opened it up to the top two teams.

The Apollo 18 team, made up of Wahkiakum High School students Elijah Thompson, KT Cernal, Reagan Hoogendoorn, Thain Russell, Alan Smith, Nathan Garrett, and Robert Winter took first place overall. Their coach is Brian Heston.

In second place were the Bubbleheads, comprised of Naselle High School students Joshua Chadwick, Ryan Waltemate, Courtney Paul, Alia Lebovitz, Lewis Hoff, Derek Suomela, Theron Frame, Jack D'Agostino, and Hunter Blain. Their coach is Nathan Bruce.

"We are incredibly excited to be able to go to Nationals and so thankful that we had the privilege of being invited," Joshua Chadwick, the team captain for the Naselle Bubbleheads said.

There were five teams at the event; two from Wahkiakum, two from Naselle, and one from Issaquah. This included three high school teams, and two middle school teams.

Sofia VanHuss, Parker Holmes, Nimra Sajeel and Lucy Ellsworth represented the Issaquah team.

The Naselle middle school team was represented by Logan Wirkkala-Scheller, Kyle Eastham, Trajen Ford, Tucker Bennett, Andy Rosas, and Lilliana Fest.

Another Wahkiakum team, Neutral Buoyancy is made up of Micah Johnson, Arwynn Haney, Peter Vik, Patrick Thompson, Max Schmitz, Annelise Vik, and Jamey Heston.

Pierce Leavitt, the club president, and Kaiden Ray, lead programmer, supported both teams.

The Wahkiakum teams will combine to make one 16 member team, and all of them found out this week that they get to go to the event and will be staying a few extra days to see Washington D.C.

Each team was judged for how quickly the robot they designed and programmed could complete an obstacle course, how many tasks the robot could complete in the allotted time in a mission course, a video explaining their engineering design process, and a technical report explaining their engineering design process.

The Apollo 18 team took first place with their engineering video, first place in the mission course, and second in the obstacle course. The Naselle Bubbleheads took second place with their engineering video, first for their technical design report, and third in the mission course.

There were several volunteers from several local organizations who helped make the event happen. They were from the Wahkiakum Amateur Radio Club, Wahkiakum School District, the Town of Cathlamet, the Wahkiakum STEAM Booster Club, and from Georgia Pacific Wauna.

To watch a video of the event go to


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