Collbran robotics teams compete in Denver

Two Mesa County high schools will compete today and Saturday at the FIRST Robotics Colorado Regional Competition in Denver.

The Collbran Job Corps’ robotics team has won the competition three times since the team’s rookie season in 2003. Fellow Collbran school Plateau Valley High formed its first robotics team in 2005 and won the Colorado regional contest in 2009. Winning a regional competition is a direct ticket to an international FIRST Robotics Championship, which takes place this year in St. Louis.

FIRST, an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, gives students six weeks to design, build and test a robot that can perform a specific task. The task changes each year and is announced in January.

This year, the robots have to pick up inner tubes and place them on a rack. Winners are judged on how well the robot performs tasks, design, creativity and innovation.

Students get advice from teachers as well as locals in engineering and science fields while developing their robots, but they do most of the work on their own. George Calix, an 18-year-old senior at Collbran Job Corps, said going from nothing to something in six weeks is tough but educational.

“We weld our own parts, we do the electronics, we do the wiring, we do the programming, we do the design. We do it all,” Calix said.

Some work is done in the classroom, but most of the work on Plateau Valley’s forklift-like robot was performed after school hours, according to Plateau Valley junior Alyssa Soss, 16.

“Those six weeks, you don’t get any sleep,” she said. “Some nights you’re there until 1 a.m. trying to get it finished.”

Both teams hope their work pays off with another trip to the FIRST Championship.

Job Corps has 19 team members, and Plateau Valley has 32.

The teams will go through several rounds today.


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