Farewell Samantha … at least for a while

CVHS robotic students work on their robot, Samantha, during a scrimmage at La Cañada High School on Feb.19.


On Tuesday, after a busy weekend, the Crescenta Valley High School 2010 Falkon robot was packed into a crate and shipped to the Long Beach Arena where it will stay until it faces other robots on the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competitive field on March 25.

“I hate this. For the last six weeks we have been working on it. Now what do we do?  I can’t work on it for a month,” lamented Sam Sampson, CVHS senior and robotics team leader.

For the past six weeks the robotics team has been building its robot, named Samantha, to the FIRST specifications for this year’s competition. Each year FIRST challenges teams of high school future engineers from around the world with a new game. This year it is a form of soccer. The robots earn points in a variety of ways including kicking a soccer ball into a specially designed field goal.

Teams received instructions in January and had six weeks to decide strategy on how to play the game; for example, more defensively than offensively. After discussion and debate, they design and build the robot, which, in CVHS’s case, is Samantha.

Last year team mentor and engineering teacher Greg Neat invited Clark Magnet and La Cañada high schools’ robotic teams to a scrimmage. CVHS parents hosted a barbeque. After sharing a meal the robots were brought to the makeshift field in the school’s cafeteria and played the game.

Last Friday, in keeping with the scrimmage tradition, La Cañada High School hosted the event. It was a friendly competition on a makeshift field set up in the corner of the track and football fields.

Anytime they get an opportunity to practice the game is valuable, Neat said.

During the L.A. regional competition teams are paired with each other. Having scrimmages with nearby schools prior helps the players learn teamwork. At Friday night’s event there was no doubt that there was a contest taking place between the teams, but all cheered each other when the robots successfully made a goal.

On Sunday the CVHS team traveled to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont for another scrimmage. Not only a day of competition but it was a chance to see the college, which focuses on math, science and engineering.

But on Tuesday Samantha was put in the crate and shipped to the regional competition.

“I wish we could do more regionals,” Sampson said.

Students work hard on designing and building a robot but only get to practice at scrimmages they arrange. If they could compete in more regionals, the team would only get better through practice, Sampson said. Now it is equivalent to having a football team practice for six weeks only to compete in one game.

Neat said he would like to go to more regionals but money is an issue. The games cost $5,000 each and then there are travel expenses. There are corporate sponsors but not enough to cover more than one regional contest.

“Outside of the sponsors, the most support we get is from former students,” Neat said.

As Sampson watched the Federal Express truck drive off with Samantha he said, “Hopefully I will make enough money when I get out of school to come back and sponsor the team.”