Local robotics team headed to championship
After an amazing rookie year, the local Hi Five robotics team is headed to an international championship.
A dozen members of the team, made up solely of Mesa County high school students, will compete against nearly 400 other high school teams from around the globe Wednesday through Saturday in the FIRST Robotics International Championship in St. Louis, Mo.
FIRST, which stands for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, is a worldwide robotics program that challenges students to build a robot that can play a game against other robots. FIRST announces a different game each January, then gives teams six weeks to build and program a robot based on their own ideas for how to play that game. Students play the game at regional competitions in order to earn a chance to qualify for the international championship.
Team Hi Five used its robot, which has two arms to clamp down on objects, to pick up balls and toss them into goals at regional competitions in Denver and West Valley City, Utah. The team ranked in the top 15 and was named Rookie All-Star at both events, qualifying them for the international competition.
Steve Langley, one of the team’s adult mentors, said he didn’t expect the team to win the rookie award twice or make it so far in the team’s first year. But the accolades were deserved, he said.
“This is the sharpest group I’ve seen — they have such diverse talents ... they pick it up and run with it,” Langley said.
This is Langley’s 11th season with FIRST Robotics. He previously mentored Team 1332 at Plateau Valley High School. The team dissolved this year and picked up students from Plateau Valley, Palisade High, Fruita Monument High and Grand Junction High this year. A few teammates are involved in the Riverside Educational Center as well, making it the fifth school involved in the team, hence the team name Hi Five.
While Langley and former Collbran Job Corps robotics mentor Alan Anderson gathered mentors for an all-Mesa County team, Palisade High senior Kai Williams, a former Plateau Valley team member, recruited students. He sports a mohawk he’s really not that fond of to promote awareness of the team and even used a bomb squad robot brandishing a bouquet of flowers and a note to ask a girl to prom in the school cafeteria (she said yes).
In addition to being fun, Williams said FIRST participation looks good on a college application. He will attend the University of Rochester in the fall and his fellow senior teammates are headed to Harvard, Colorado Mesa University and Harvey Mudd.
“FIRST unlocks a lot of scholarships, too. It unlocked $20,000 for me next year,” Williams said.
The team hopes to continue next year and recruit students from Central High and Caprock Academy.