Lents-based student robot builders shoot, score!

See why, even though they are without a high school to call home, this Lents Neighborhood-based group of robot builders continues to compete – and to do well – in many ways …

In their pit at the  8th Annual FIRST Autodesk Regional competition in Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, Mahr’s Metal Beavers’ crew members Tim Barber, mentor from Boeing; Thomas Hubel Franklin; Boeing Mentor Ejvin Berry, Chase Foreman, Franklin High; Hadrian Carlsen, Franklin High; and Bill Atkinson, Cleveland High pause for a photo between matches.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It’s been a struggle for mentors and friends of FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC) Team 1432, known as “Mahr’s Metal Beavers”, to keep the robot-building club together – after being turned out of their eight-year home at Franklin High School.

But, thanks to the workspace and clubhouse provided the Ivanhoe Lodge, Knights of Pythias, in Lents, and the Southeast Portland Rotary Club as their fiscal sponsors, the Metal Beavers continue to carry on.

Tom Hubel and Chase Foreman check their computer’s programming at the remote control station.

Against all odds, again this year, the 12-member team successfully competed at the 8th Annual FIRST Autodesk Regional competition in Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum on March 9-10 against 65 other teams.

In the pit area, team member William Atkinson, a senior at Cleveland High School, explained how their team’s mechanics were testing the belts that drive their systems and resetting a driving motor.

In this year’s FIRST competition, all the teams were tasked to design and build robots that pick up and shoot basketballs through hoops at different heights, and then try to balance on a rocking ramp, Atkinson said.

“Mahr’s Metal Beavers” team members carry their robot onto the playing field.

“Thanks to Autodesk for donating us a new computer, for the first year, we designed our entire robot using Computer Aided Design. And, we’ve incorporated innovative ideas, like using a timing belt instead of gears. This year, our robot really works – we can drive it, and it fires basketballs like we designed it to do.

“It’s more than building robots, Atkinson said. “The idea is to train students in math, science, and engineering skills we can use in the future. And, doing this creates community within the group.”

Robots “shoot the hoops” at the competition in Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum.

As a four-year member of FRC Team 1432, Atkinson says the bonds created are not easily broken. “Even though the people I’ve worked with have graduated and moved on, I still talk with them regularly. Overall it’s a very good thing.”

Deb Mumm-Hill, the FIRST Robotics Pacific Northwest Director, smiled when asked about the “Metal Beavers”.

FRC Team 1432’s drivers Thomas Hubel, Hadrian Carlson, Chase Foreman get the robot into position, and the operator shoots a basketball – all by remote control.

Mahr’s Metal Beavers’ robot is set up to shoot another hoop during the competition.

“They’re an amazing team,” Mumm-Hill told East Portland News. “Thanks to dedicated families, they’ve been able to keep this team together, no matter what. They’re able to bring in kids from all over Southeast Portland to learn and work together in a safe environment to build robots.”

Surprisingly, Mumm-Hill added, “We’re not really a robotics program – we are a mentoring program. We just use the theme of robotics to help bring together adults to share what they know with young people. The ‘Metal Beavers’ are the epitome of an organization that really knows what mentoring does. They are changing lives, and giving kids who are under-served hope, opening a brighter future to them.”

While they didn’t “take home the gold” this year, FRC Team 1432’s robot worked every time it took the field, scored points, and helped other teams score on the “cooperation bridge” to bolster their league’s standing.

Team mentor Rebecca LohKamp serves up spaghetti at a fundraising dinner with team members Thomas and Stephanie Hubel. See their website, (CLICK HERE), for details about their upcoming June 16 fundraising dinner.

More than using their funds to buy computers and robot parts, “Metal Beavers” mentors also provides after-school meals and weekend lunches for members. “It’s an expensive program,” admitted Rebecca LohKamp. “This means we’re always fundraising, and we really appreciate the help of our corporate sponsors – and that of our friends in the community.”

To learn more about this team, and links to their fundraising and Facebook pages, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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