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April 13, 2004 > CSD Robotics Team Competes at SJSU

CSD Robotics Team Competes at SJSU

by Submitted by Bridgetta Bourne-Firl, Ron Bye and Anna Woodbury

The Robotics Team from the California School for the Deaf (CSD) traveled to San Jose for the FIRST Robotics Regional competition held at San Jose State University April 1st - 3rd. Students Mark Grossinger, Wyatt Baldwin, Andrew Raymond, Vita Vongsikeo, and Jennifer Axberg demonstrated the robot they created with the support from sponsor teachers, Ms. Anna Woodbury, Mr. Ron Rhodes, and Mr. Jerry McCarthy.

At a previous regional competition in Sacramento, March 18-20, CSD placed 20th out of 37 teams. CSD competitors included Andrew Raymond, Wyatt Baldwin, Mark Grossinger and Vita Vongsikeo. Two teachers, Mr. Ron Bye and Mr. Bob Morrison, accompanied them. Thirty-seven teams participated in this competition; several teams came from other states, as far away as Oregon and Florida. Sprint Relay Service sponsored our entry as it cost $4,000 to participate in the competition; without their help, the CSD team would not have been able to go to the competition.

The regional competitions are hosted by FIRST - For the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. Their mission has been to design accessible, innovative programs to build self-confidence, knowledge and life skills while motivating young people to pursue opportunities in science, technology and engineering. Ten years ago, the FIRST Robotics Competition began with 28 teams and a single 14 x 14 foot playing field in a New Hampshire high school gym. Today, FIRST has more than 800 teams participating nationwide and internationally, in 23 Regional events and a Championship event.

The Sacramento competition was the first experience for these CSD students. They were anxious because they had worked very hard building a robot in only six weeks, the given timeframe from FIRST. Initially, in the beginning of this year, students nationwide received the same kits and information that was going to be unveiled this year's game. In "FIRST Frenzy: Raising the Bar," students had to design their robots to race around a playing field collecting and passing 13" balls to human players who then shoot the balls into fixed and moveable goals. Additionally, robots may attempt to hang from a 10' bar. They had to finish building the robot by the third week of February to ship it to the competition site or be disqualified.

It was a big challenge for CSD competitors to find out if the robot would operate correctly when they arrived in Sacramento to pick up the crate shipped a few weeks earlier. Jesuit High School in Sacramento was a big help to the CSD team in preparation for the competition. Teamwork is essential and part of the competition. In the end, CSD placed 20th out of 37 teams. It was a rewarding experience and great preparation for the next regional competition to be held in San Jose.

CSD Robotics team #827 had a very successful weekend at SJSU. In the last few days prior to the weekend competition April 1st - 4th, team members worked diligently to eliminate design "kinks." Mark Grossinger worked with a sponsor from Pontiac, Michigan (Team Delphi, #47) on programming while Jennifer Axberg, Wyatt Baldwin, and Andrew Raymond modified the robotic arm and Vita Vongsikeo networked with the other teams discussing strengths and weaknesses of the other robots.

Jesuit High School (Team #1097) from Sacramento provided the team with lunch, dinner, and a whole lot of encouragement and support. All day Thursday, the 46 participating teams exchanged parts and expertise (and souvenirs) to spread the feeling of "gracious professionalism" emphasized by FIRST Robotics competition.

"Seeding Competitions" were held on Friday and Saturday mornings. Teams were randomly paired into alliances and competed with different alliances throughout the day. Mark was the driver/operator, Wyatt and Jennifer provided support and made sure the robot was ready to go, and Vita discussed strategy with our alliance teams. Our robot performed very well, functioning offensively as a ball collector and ball grabber, and defensively to prevent other teams from completing their tasks. In addition, our ball thrower, Andrew Raymond, did an excellent job as ball after ball made it into the "basket" on the field. After 8 seeding matches, we were ranked number 17 out of 46 teams.

The top 8 teams picked two other teams to be in their alliance for the finals but, unfortunately, we were not picked. It appeared to be primarily a "battle of the hooks", as most of the robots competed to see who could hook an 8 foot high bar and pull their robot off the ground. While CSD did not make it to the finals, our robot performed very well and CSD students showed good sportsmanship in both their wins and losses.

Our team would like to take the time to acknowledge the tremendous amount of support we received from the Jesuit High School team for both the Sacramento Regional and the Silicon Valley Regional. They arranged for our housing in Sacramento, fed us at both regional competitions, made our team buttons, took the time to learn some sign language and try to communicate with our students without an interpreter, and rooted for our team throughout the whole event.

Thank you to all for your support of our team-
High School Teachers, Anna Woodbury, Jerry McCarthy. Ron Bye, Ron Rhodes

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