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North Marion High School robotics excels

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Two North Marion robotics teams perform well at tournament hosted by Willamette High School in Eugene on Jan. 21

COURTESY PHOTO: SHERIE MORAN - North Marion Voltmaster Teams Scorpio and Juggernaut (left) compete against two teams from Sandy.A pair of North Marion High School Voltmaster Robotics teams, including the newly formed Team Scorpio, performed well in a tournament at Willamette High School in Eugene on Jan. 21.

Team Scorpio's Samantha Patton and Cody Muyres are level 2 engineering systems students at North Marion. The team's early round performances caught the eye of the second place team captain who decided to give the newbies a chance and invited them to join his alliance.

In the competition, the top eight or 10 teams from the qualifying rounds get to pick two other teams to join a three-team alliance to move forward with. Team Scorpio's little robot performed well under pressure and was able to assist its new alliance's move through the quarterfinals, semifinals and into the finals, where they finished second overall.

North Marion's other squad, Team Juggernaut, won only two of its seven matches in the early rounds. They would get a chance to help out an alliance as well, though. The fifth place alliance captain asked them to join and Team Juggernaut, made up of Ryan Chase, William Bishop and newcomer Lauren Caulkins, held its own through the quarterfinals and helped the three-team alliance get into the semifinals before falling.

"They were proud of what they did at the tournament, but plans are already underway to streamline their program and add some arms that will allow them to pick up some larger game pieces," said coach and club adviser Sherie Moran, who also teaches computer science and engineering.

The coach said that she hopes to add three more teams to the roster in time to participate in the rookies-only tournament in Dallas on Feb. 18.

Moran said she was proud of how far her students have come and the pipeline is filling up for the rest of this season.

"Robotics brings together engineering and computer programming and then challenges students to be programmers, builders, remote control drivers, and do it all while working under time pressure," Moran said. "Moving quickly can be the difference between life and death, and revising code, replacing parts or solving challenges is what VEX robotics is all about. By growing our robotics club we are getting more and more students to think like programmers," she added, saying that students develop a portfolio as they move through the program, which offers more than six classes, that benefits them through graduation and beyond.

Freshman Hunter Wierstra, echoed Moran's thoughts about computer science and robotics, saying, "The reason I am in computer science and engineering is to challenge myself to do my very best while learning. I learn a new thing every day that I can actually use in the real world."

The NMHS home tournament Jan. 7 had to be rescheduled to Feb. 25 due to weather.