Ballard High School's Viking Robotics will be competing in robot-on-robot competition at the FIRST Robotics competition March 26 and March 27 at Key Arena.
Viking Robotics builds confidence, robot
After a disappointing debut, Ballard High School's Viking Robotics is looking to improve on its second-to-last-place 2009 finish in the FIRST Robotics Seattle Regional Competition March 26 and March 27.
Or if not to improve, to at least do slightly worse.
"At least you can joke about last place," junior Paul Menendez said. "There's no fun in second to last."
FIRST Robotics started in 1992 in New Hampshire as a way to inspire young people to become leaders in science and technology. Now, more than 150,000 students nationwide are involved in it.
Teams spend six weeks designing, building and testing a robot to compete in a soccer-like game called Breakaway.
Last year, Viking Robotics did not do well. Menendez blames a subjective scoring system. Craig Nielsen, Ballard High School teacher and leader of Viking Robotics, blames the team's newness.
Three years ago, Nielsen said he was approached by Principal Phil Brockman about doing something with robotics but blew him off.
He saw an email about FIRST last year and decided to look into it. He said the program receives a lot of support from the state and didn't look like too much work, so he decided to roll with it.
He was about to be surprised.
During the six weeks leading up to competition, the team works every night and every weekend, three hours on weeknights and six to eight hours on weekends, Nielsen said.
Menendez said he joined the team because he heard Nielsen was starting a club and needed people and thought it would look good on a college application. He was also surprised by the workload.
When hearing about the time commitment, he said his reaction was, "Wait? What? That doesn't sound quite right."
Two years in, Menendez said Viking Robotics is worth the effort.
"I love it," he said. "It's great."
Nielsen said involvement in FIRST Robotics has been beneficial to students, building their confidence and self-discipline.
"I really saw huge growth in their maturity," he said. "Students became a lot more self-confident, and it's been proven in other classrooms."
Junior Andrew McMuldroch is in his second year with Viking Robotics. He said he likes the cooperation between teams that are supposed to be in competition with each other. Every team is happy to share problems, solutions and ideas, he said.
With more than 20 students – up from 10 last year – working on one robot, the team decided to divide up tasks this year, McMuldroch said.
Groups of students worked on different parts of the robot, such as its drive train and programming, separately before combining them, said McMuldroch, who was part of the programming team.
Menendez said the best moment of the weeks leading up to the competition is finally putting all the parts together and taking the robot for a test drive to see how it works.
Viking Robotics will be competing against 60 other teams from around the Pacific Northwest from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on March 26 and March 27 at Key Arena.
Nielsen said the team is looking fairly strong this year.
"Our goal is to improve in our standings immensely," he said. "We just want to see a drastic improvement over last year."