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Tri-State Team Overcomes Obstacles to Win FIRST Robotics' Crossroads Regional

March 8, 2014

Click on the image to view the gallery. Photos by Steve Voltmer and Chris Minnick

High School teams from Kansas, Ohio, and Indiana overcame technical obstacles to score an upset victory in the championship match of FIRST Robotics’ Crossroads Regional at Rose-Hulman’s Sports and Recreation Center.

Robots built by Paola High School of Paola, Kansas; Penn High School in Mishawaka, Indiana; and Saint Charles Preparatory School in Columbus, Ohio, combined with a hometown rookie team from the Vigo County School Corporation in Terre Haute to outscore the top-seeded Indiana team in the final match.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) brings the excitement of a sporting event to science and technology through a robotics competition. This year’s game, Aerial Assist, was played by two competing alliances of three robots working together to pick up, pass, and throw exercise balls into target areas to score as many points as possible goals during a two-minute and 30-second match.

Under tight guidelines, limited resources, and time restrictions, teams build and program robots from a common kit of parts to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. The Crossroads Regional allowed teams to measure the effectiveness of their robots and test the power of collaboration.

And, sportsmanship was a major ingredient of the final match against the top-ranked alliance, featuring teams from Indianapolis’ Lawrence Metropolitan School District and Perry Meridian High School, along with Munster (Indiana) High School.

Paola High School’s robot, ranked second throughout preliminary qualification rounds, suffered a mechanical breakdown after winning the first match in the double-elimination championship round. That victory was only the second loss of the two-day tournament for Lawrence Metropolitan School District’s Kil-A-Bytes team.

In a gracious move, the Kil-A-Bytes gave Paola students extra time to make necessary repairs before the second finals match. Still, the robot was unable to compete in a match, eventually won by the Indiana alliance. This set up a deciding winner-take-all match, with students and mentors from Paola working until the last second to make necessary repairs to the wounded robot.

Once back in the game, Paola combined with Penn and Saint Charles Prepatory School to score a 150-118 victory in the championship match.

“This is what FIRST Robotics is all about, high school students working together for the betterment of the entire competition,” says Crossroads Regional Chair Carlotta Berry, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “FIRST Robotics isn’t a competition. It is students, teachers, engineering mentors, and parents working together for a common goal: educating the scientists, engineers and mathematicians of the future.”

Regional Master of Ceremonies Kris Verdeyen, a NASA robotics engineer and FIRST Robotics volunteer in Texas, added, “This was the most competitive regional that I have ever been associated. The robots were exceptional, the team spirit was high, and every match was extremely competitive.”

As regional champions, the winning alliance has qualified for the FIRST Championship on April 24-26 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. This includes the rookie Vigo County team, mentored by a group of Rose-Hulman students. The local robot also suffered mechanical breakdowns after the quarterfinal round match and was replaced by the at-large Saint Charles Preparatory School team for the semifinal and championship rounds.

Special recognition awards presented at the conclusion of the regional were:

  • Rookie All-Star: Vigo County School Corporation, Terre Haute
  • Quality Award: Lawrence Metropolitan School District, Indianapolis
  • Gracious Professional: McCutcheon High School, Lafayette
  • Industrial Design: Hammond (Indiana) Schools
  • Judges Award: Brookfield (Wisconsin) East & Central High Schools
  • Industrial Safety: Harding High School, Warren, Ohio
  • Innovation in Control: Carmel (Indiana) High School
  • Excellence in Engineering: Northern Ohio Career Center, Milan, Ohio
  • Engineering Inspiration: Dublin (Ohio) City Schools
  • Highest Seeded Rookie: Vigo County School Corporation, Terre Haute
  • Rookie Inspiration: Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation, Columbus, Indiana
  • Chairman’s Award: Paola (Kansas) High School
  • Dean’s List Finalist: Kathryn Semple, Paola (Kansas) High School, and Lucas Schneider, Pike High School, Indianapolis

A total of 45 teams from nine states competed in this year’s regional.

Founded by inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST is supported by three out of every five Fortune 500 companies and will offer more than $19 million in college scholarships this year. An independent study revealed that FIRST alumni are more than twice as likely to have a science- or technology-related career after college and more than three times as likely to pursue a career in engineering.