By Mary O’KEEFE
After weeks of working long hours Clark Magnet, Crescenta Valley and La Cañada High School robotic teams made their way to the Long Beach Arena last week to compete in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Los Angeles Regional competition.
Each year FIRST challenges high school students to build a robot that will compete in a specific game. Last year the game resembled a soccer match; the year before that it had elements of basketball and this year it was a design game. The robot had to grab hold of inflatable objects of a red triangle, white triangle or blue square. The objects had to be lifted off the ground and placed onto a pegboard in the FIRST red, white and blue design.
In addition this year’s game added a mini robot to the game challenge. Teams built a smaller robot that would be carried on the larger robot and at some point deploy to climb a 25-foot pole.
A few years ago the CVHS robotic team invited Clark and La Cañada to their campus for a barbeque and scrimmage. Since that first year the scrimmage/dinner has rotated from school to school. This year Clark hosted the event. In addition Clark’s robot team member Laura Widholm organized a laser tag night for the schools.
Sometimes the teams compete against each other and sometimes they work in alliance with each other during the regional competition. At last week’s competition the bonding paid off because Clark and CVHS worked on an alliance together.
It may seem a little chaotic for those walking into the competition for the first time. Teams from Los Angeles County and beyond bring their own personality to the meet. There are many with colored wigs, some with school mascots and others like La Cañada with shirts that light up like a computer board.
Clark is very easy to find with their hot pink shirts. CVHS had everyone, even mentor/teacher Greg Neat wearing bobble headbands and beads.
“We feel good about the [competition],” Widholm said on Friday. “Our arm is working well and our mini bot is good.”
The CVHS team was having some problem with their arm but their mini bot was strong during the San Diego Regional they competed in and their confidence was high.
“Our arm is still a problem but we are doing well,” said Nick Ferraro, CVHS team member.
The competition went from Thursday to Saturday. The teams’ scores bounced from high to lows as the matches went on.
In the end Clark made it to the finals and had to choose a team to be part of their alliance. Clark chose CVHS. They went through the competition and in the end Clark ended with a ranking of 12, CVHS ranked 16 and LCHS was 43rd.