“Chain Reaction” of Thunder Mountain High School poses with its robot after winning the top honor at the Southeast Regional Qualifier Tournament at TMHS on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. From left to right: Johnny Barnhill, Remington Wiley, Keelan Cunningham, Hailee Cunningham, Benjamin Gho, Corinne Rather. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

“Chain Reaction” of Thunder Mountain High School poses with its robot after winning the top honor at the Southeast Regional Qualifier Tournament at TMHS on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019. From left to right: Johnny Barnhill, Remington Wiley, Keelan Cunningham, Hailee Cunningham, Benjamin Gho, Corinne Rather. (Nolin Ainsworth | Juneau Empire)

Thunder Mountain sweeps regional robotics competition

‘Chain Reaction’ win top honor for best-performing robot

The “Chain Reaction” robotics team from Thunder Mountain High School won the Southeast Regional Qualifier Tournament on Saturday.

“Chain Reaction” received the Inspire Award, given to the team with the top-performing robot, had a strong engineering notebook and performed community outreach. “Chain Reaction” teamed up with “Accidental Volunteers” in the semifinals and finals. The matches lasted two and a half minutes, and two teams worked together to get the most points by moving and stacking supersized LEGO pieces on a 12-foot-by-12-foot playing surface.

“Chain Reaction” was made up of Johnny Barnhill, Remington Wiley, Keelan Cunningham, Hailee Cunningham, Benjamin Gho and Corinne Rather.

“All in all, we are probably the best here at stacking, that’s what brought us up on top,” Chain Reaction captain Keelan Cunningham said. “We were able to stack the blocks and then place the capstone, which in my opinion made it the best one.” The capstone was an object that teams could place on top of their LEGO stack for extra points.

Cunningham said the engineering philosophy they followed was a key reason for their success.

“I’ve learned over the course of robotics that multiple mechanisms to do singular tasks work better than one mechanism to do multiple,” Cunningham said. “So that’s why our arm works so well. You saw a few of the arms, right, where it just did everything, like it grabbed the blocks, it moved the platform and all that? That actually causes it to be slower and less efficient so that’s one of the reasons our robot works so well.”

Two other teams from TMHS also took home awards.

The all-girls team “Genetic Advantage” won the Think Award, given to the team with the best engineering notebook, and “Happy Dave” won the Connect Award, given to the team that connected the most to the local science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) community.

The winners partnered with “Accidental Volunteers” of Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaat.at Kalé for the semifinals and finals. The two teams were randomly paired during their final match in the qualification round and found together, they made for a formidable force.

“In a way, we kind of knew that they were going to choose us because our last match in the qualification rounds, we just worked so well together,” Accidental Volunteers captain Koby Goldstein said, “and so they ultimately came back and they were like, ‘We want to work with you.’”

“Chain Reaction” and “Accidental Volunteers” will be among the teams advancing to the Alaska FIRST Tech Challenge Championship Feb. 6-7 in Palmer. The state competition will feature 40 teams from around the state.

“We need to speed up the process, that’s pretty much it, we need to speed up the driving and most of the intake,” Cunningham said of the work left to be done on the robot.

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