Wahkiakum team places first at international robotics competition
Naselle Bubbleheads claim fifth place
May 18, 2023
The Wahkiakum Mecha Mules Water Damage robotics team took first place in the open division of the International SeaPerch Challenge over the weekend and can proudly claim themselves World Champions, or as Wahkiakum School District Superintendent Brent Freeman says, “Intergalactic champions of the universe!”
Last week, the Mecha Mules and the Naselle Bubbleheads traveled to Washington D.C. for a little sightseeing at our nation’s capitol, and on Saturday, they joined 17 other teams from the U.S., China, and Kuwait in Maryland in the open class of the underwater robotics competition sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research. Another 128 teams competed in either the middle school or high school stock classes.
According to Ron Wright, the founder of the local robotics programs, as well as a mentor for both programs, and former coach of the Mecha Mules, the open class is “easily the most difficult class to be in,” “reserved for those teams able and willing to invest the time, energy, and resources to build advanced robots.”
The stock classes are for high school and middle school teams who use a stock robot kit, and they are only allowed to spend $25 for any kind of innovations or improvements. They are also limited to only middle school students, or only high school students, while middle school and high school students can work together in the open class.
In the open class, the Wahkiakum Mecha Mules Water Damage team took first place overall, and were ranked first in the technical design reports category and first for their team video. They placed fourth in the mission course, scoring 90 points and finishing at 3:44.63, well before the eight minutes they were allotted. They also placed fourth in the obstacle course with a time of 0:48.78. The team is coached by Amanda Heston.
The Naselle Bubbleheads took fifth place overall, with a fifth place finish in the technical design reports, and seventh place for their video. They placed fifth in the mission course, scoring 90 points, and finishing with a time of 5:03 and eighth in the obstacle course with a time of 1:37.19. They are coached by Rudi Rudolph.
“I knew our kids were talented and worked hard for this, but to have it recognized on such a big stage, against some stiff competition, even more so than last year, it's so satisfying. I'm so proud and so happy I got to be their coach this season,” Heston said of the Wahkiakum team.
Another coach and mentor, Jessica Vik asked the Mecha Mules to talk about their favorite thing about this experience. Here are their replies:
“My favorite part of the trip was being with the team. It was very fun winning the awards we did,” Micah Johnson said.
“My favorite part was going to the spy museum and being with the team,” Annelise Vik said.
‘Having our hard work pay off. We know we improved since last year. Seaperch's recognition validated that,” Arwynn Haney said.
“Winning the competition and every everyone freaking out when our name was called. And being the tallest person there. I got to sit on Peter's shoulders for a picture,” Jamey Heston said.
“I enjoyed the Spy Museum and Ford's Theater. No one person could have made champion on our own, we each needed the person sitting next to us,” Peter Vik said.
“I enjoyed the way the trip was set up. We saw less this year but got to take in more at each place. The mutual respect to each team member on this trip is great,” Alan Smith said.
"I am really glad we are able to come back with 1st place!” Nathan Garrett said.
Many other coaches and mentors helped make this happen, according to Wright including Brian Heston, Jeff Rooklidge, Josh Miller, Marjorie Watkins, Steve Hart, Mark Sutton, and Jessica Vik, and Wright.
The Eagle tried to catch up with the Naselle Bubblehead team who arrived home on Monday. We’re hoping to share more about their experience next week.