Enumclaw High robotics team second in state competition

Word of the Enumclaw High School robotics team’s second-place state finish is spreading quickly through town.

The second-year team – the Techno-Bots – braved the snow to finish runner-up to two-time defending state champion CyberKnights Jan. 15 at the FIRST FTC Washington State Championship at Interlake High School in Bellevue.

“We performed well all day and got a few lucky breaks,” adviser Kent Basting said.

After qualifying third among 24 teams, the Techno-Bots won their semifinal round, rocketing them into the showdown with the CyberKnights of Kings High School.

“They are four-time state winners,” adviser Jim LovellFord said of the CyberKnights. “The guys that beat us have been to Worlds three times.

“We were in it. As a second-year team I was ecstatic. We were one step away from going to Worlds.”

“They are always our top competition,” EHS senior Danielle Terrell said. “We knew they were going to be good, we kept saying we’d have to be 10 times better.”

As winners, the CyberKnights advance to St. Louis to compete in the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships. FIRST stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

It was not an easy road for the EHS team, Basting explained.

Jan. 14, the team sailed through inspection and interviews.

Then began Sunday’s grueling competition.

The robot has to be able to manipulate objects – lift crates, move a bowling ball up a ramp, grasp racquet balls. Terrell serves as the robot’s navigator, while Sam Phelps and Cody Van Haalen are its drivers. Van Haalen stepped up to the plate as a late replacement for Sebastian Churchel who transferred to another school.

The team competed in seven preliminary matches, where the team had a different “alliance” partner for each match and went head-to-head against two other allied teams.

Terrell explained alliance partners are designed to teach robotics students to be gracious professionals.

“You learn to treat teams fairly, help them out and create relationships for the future,” she said.

The EHS team and its alliance partners won all seven matches and through what Basting explained as the “computing of a complicated algorithm” were in third place.

In the semifinals, the top four teams pick two other teams as partners. EHS paired with Swerve Robotics and Avanti and competed in two out of three against each other.

Techno-Bots went 2-0 in the semifinal round before falling 2-0 to the CyberKnights.

“Toward the end of the day we were having some difficulty with our robot,” Basting said, noting a phantom loose wire was creating troubles. “I was proud of their decision making and their composure.”

He said it was a great experience.

LovellFord called it a true team experience.

Paul Crews, Mike Anderson, J.J. Craig, Allison Ewell, Lori Lamm, Devon Schamber, Alex Hebrank and Kayla Terrell are also team members. Most of the team were part of last year’s inaugural program that placed 11th at state and won the Judge’s Award.

The competition is more than leading the robot through a series of tasks. Each team also produces an engineering book, judged heavily on the use of engineering principles. The support team also builds the robot, programs it and works on mechanical and administrative duties. Part of the support team’s duty is also to motivate the crowd to support the team by leading cheers and handing out promotional material.

In early December, the EHS team, also known as Team 4213, earned the “Think” award at its qualifying match. The honor is a judges’ award based on the quality of the team’s documentation relating to the engineering process of the robot.

Second place is exciting, yet hard to swallow at the same time, EHS’s robotics team leaders noted, but they, along with mentors Corey Cassell and Preston Phelps and the returning team members are feeding off this year’s frenzy.

“I couldn’t believe the enthusiasm of the crowd,” LovellFord said. “It’s amazing how many people are into this. It’s amazing how many companies and institutions are supporting this thing.”

“I think they’ll be able to do even better and go on to Worlds,” Terrell said of next year’s team. She and Lamm are the team’s only seniors.


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