Students’ disk-flinging robots compete…and score

Find out which outer East Portland school’s new club entered the competition for the very first time this year – and, how a returning team excelled …

Big, powerful robots charge around the playing field during the 2013 Oregon FIRST Robotics Regional Competition at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Portland’s two inner southeast high school robotics teams shot – and scored – during the 2013 Oregon FIRST Robotics Regional Competition, held on March 8-9 at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

The FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) organization was started by inventor Dean Kamen in 1989 “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”, which is what the initials stand for.

Some of FRC Team 1432 “Mahr’s Metal Beavers” crew – Franklin High School students Lewis Hicks, Mathew Robinett, Thomas Hubel, and Chase Foreman – wheel their robot back to their pit area after a competition.

Portland’s original high school robotics club, FRC Team 1432 “Mahr’s Metal Beavers” started at Franklin High in 2003 as a free after-school program. Later being kicked out of the school’s otherwise-disused auto shop for reasons still unclear, in 2010, didn’t disband the team.

Thanks to SE Portland Rotary becoming their fiscal sponsor, and with space provided by the Ivanhoe Lodge of Knights of Pythias in the Lents Neighborhood, this scrappy team continues onward – and upward.

In their team’s pit during the robotic competition, four-year team member Thomas Hubel said they were doing better than ever.

The crew puts FRC Team 1432’s robot onto the playing field – hidden by another robot in front of it. Only “special” photographers were allowed in the arena this year, organizer say, “due to safety reasons”.

“So far we’ve played two matches, and won both of them,” Hubel reported. “Our robot has scored points in all the matches. We’re doing much better than in past years.”

By the time the competition was over, FRC Team 1432 was ranked in 22nd place, out of 59 teams!

“The challenges have gotten more complex over the years,” observed Hubel. “This year, we are to score by launching flying disks off our robots into goals, and by climbing a three-level pyramid.”

From behind the protective shield, the FRC Team 1432’s drivers make their robot shoot, and score.

Now a senior at Franklin High, Hubel commented on why he’s stuck with the program despite the difficulties. “It’s fun, and satisfying to see how machinery that you and your teammates built works well out of the field.”

FRC Team 1432 – Mahr’s Metal Beavers – is open to all high school students in the area. They meet on Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays 3:45 – 6:30 p.m. at the Ivanhoe Lodge – Knights of Pythias, 5400 SE 84th Avenue at SE Insley Street. Learn more by visiting their website: CLICK HERE to open their homepage.

ACE Academy forms team

This team, sporting their signature dapper haberdashery, is ACE Academy’s brand new FRC Team 4457, “The Flying Fedoras”.

In one of the nearly 60 pit areas, there were familiar faces – but not ones associated with the FIRST Robotics Competition in past years.

“We are a rookie team here this year at the competition,” ACE Academy Director Mike Bryant told East Portland News.

In the pit, the crew of FRC Team 4457, “The Flying Fedoras”, was hard at work on their machine.

Student Josh Drake works on their robot with advisor, and former long-time Parkrose High Theater Manager Terry Franceschi.

“Our after-school robotics program is available to any high school student in East County that wants to join us,” Bryant said. “If they are of high school age, and have an interest, there’s no other criterion for students to join the team.”

Being the charter school that draws high school juniors and seniors from the Parkrose, Reynold, and Centennial school districts who are interested in ACE (architecture, construction and engineering) advanced studies, the connection seemed obvious.

“The Flying Fedoras” roll their robot out onto the competition floor.

“Exactly,” Bryant said succinctly. “The skills they learn in this club fit in very well with our curriculum.”

Taylor Lehman, a junior at Gresham Barlow Web Academy, said he’s served as the team’s webmaster, and also did some of the robot’s programming and even a bit of the wiring.

“It’s neat because we’re getting to design things, and do some engineering stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily do in school. It’s fun getting to build and create within certain limitations.”

In addition to gaining skills, Lehman said, he’s made new friends. “Actually, I’ve made a lot of friends through this.”

ACE Academy’s FRC Team 4457 puts their robot in place, just before competition begins.

And, working with the team has also helped him in other ways: “We learn to work with each other, even when we’re under stress and have been under at it for hours and hours. But, for the most part, we get along very well.”

For their first public outing, “The Flying Fedoras” did pretty well – ending the competition being ranked 46 out of 59 teams.

Behind the protective glass, drivers for the ACE Academy team maneuver their robot.

If you know a mid-County teenager who is interested in robotics, have them check out FRC Team 4457 “The Flying Fedoras’” website: CLICK HERE to open their homepage.

It appears as if the future of these clubs, which promote the practical study of science, engineering, and technology, will have a bright future – as long as they continue to get support from both mentors and sponsors.

© 2013 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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