For the first time ever, a Southeast Alaska high school robotics team is advancing to the world competition in Houston in April.
Thunder Mountain High School’s “Trial and Error” robotics team took the top honor at the state competition at the University of Alaska Anchorage this weekend. Their robot earned the most points, competing against 23 other teams.
“They are going to take the same robot, but they do have to make some modifications,” said Carol May, math teacher and the head coach of the five robotics teams at TMHS. “It didn’t work completely like they wanted it to at state. So they’ve got about 10 weeks to modify two aspects of it (before the world competition).”
Eight students were on the winning team: seniors Noatak Post, Eli Douglas, Riley Sikes and Sterling Zuboff; juniors Teilhard Buzzell and Ian Sheridan; and freshmen Grace Sikes and Darin Tingey. Teams can vary from three to 12 students.
“Going into it my team put an enormous amount of extra hours in this year,” said Noatak Post, team captain. “I don’t know what came over us, but we decided this year we were going to go all in.”
He said the team has taken the robot home every day since December to work on it. The day of the competition everyone had a designated job, which helped the stressful day flow easier, Post said.
“We did get very lucky many times, but also our robot performed exceptionally well, and I’m very proud of what my team accomplished this weekend,” said Post.
Each year’s competition has a different task. May said this year it was a space theme, and robots had time in the beginning of the competition where they must complete tasks autonomously, followed by a period where students can use a controller to complete other tasks with their robot.
This year was TMHS’ eleventh year competing in the state competition.
May said 70 countries will be represented at the FIRST Championship competition from April 17-20 in Houston and two other volunteer coaches will travel with the eight students to the competition.
Two other TMHS teams took awards at the state competition this weekend. The “Chain Reaction” team was a partner on the winning alliance, but, since they weren’t the captain team, they do not move on. The “Genetic Advantage” team of all-girls won the Judges Award for their inspiring performance with only one experienced member.
While Post said he doesn’t intend to pursue robotics in college — he wants to study to be a music teacher — he does appreciate the skills he’s learned from being on the robotics team.
“It was a really cool moment realizing that we did it and all those hours paid off,” Post said. “I’m going to be excited to be (at worlds) and learn what I can from the other teams.”
• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 523-2228.