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Robotics team rises to the challenge

FIRST Team Error Code Xero advances to semifinals in world championships


For the third year in a row, West Linn and Wilsonville’s FIRST robotics team qualified for the World Championships, held this year in St. Louis, Mo., on April 25 and 26.

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - From left to right, front row: Marsha Steffen, Caleb Weston, Pascale Patterson, Chance Arana, Jacob Tiderman, Emma Steffen, Anna Keil, Lance Sheeley and Larry Sheeley. Second row: Dru Patterson, Thomas Woltjer, Tristan Briggler, Luke Somerscales, Kelsey Underwood, Maritza Perez, Tori Bianchi, Sean Tan and Sara Leondar. Third row: Tom Somerville, Logan Spear, Mitch Nelke, Karen Harper, Kaili Crawford, Meghan Burrell, Claire Mallon and Katie Burrell. Fourth row: Marshal Stowell, Brad Olson, Ryan Kelly, Jarad Johnson, Eli Hill, Aaron Leondar, Austin Castillo and Al Bianchi. Back row: Forrest Edwards, Jeff Lewis, Jeff Harper, Tim Bennington-Davis, Eric Rippey, Steve Tarr and David DePiero. Missing students: Sophia Ries, Brennan VandenHoek, Katie Wells. Missing mentors: Kris Troha, Bob Tidrick, Jacob Peterson, John Jennings and Matthew Eppelsheimer.The team, FIRST Team 1425 — Error Code Xero, comprises 22 high school students from Wilsonville, 12 from West Linn and one from Newberg. The team performed well in qualifying matches and advanced to the semifinals before being eliminated from competition.

Each year, the FIRST Robot Challenge begins in January, with teams having six weeks to construct a robot to compete in a specific challenge. This year’s challenge, Ultimate Ascent, required teams to construct robots capable of flinging discs into a goal and climbing a 9-foot pyramid. Designing such a machine is a complicated task that requires teamwork, dedication and creativity from team members.

“For me, it is not as much about the robot as it is about the experience,” said Tori Bianchi, a West Linn sophomore and two-year team veteran. “It truly is the hardest fun a person can have.”

This year’s championship competition attracted 400 teams.

“Those 400 represent the top 10 percent of all teams from around the world,” Kris Troha said. He is one of three lead mentors for the team and a physics teacher at Wilsonville High School.

“Each team competed in eight matches,” Troha said. While not competing, team members watched other teams compete. “As in any sport,” Troha said, “this scouting data allowed us to determine appropriate strategies for upcoming matches.”

The West Linn-Wilsonville team did well during the qualification matches, ending in fourth place with a 7-1 record.

“As an individual team,” Troha said, “we ended fourth out of 100 in our division, which is a testament to the reliability of the robot and the preparation of the drive team.”

The team’s strong showing in the qualification matches allowed it to choose two partner robots to join in an alliance to compete in the elimination rounds. As an alliance, the team aced its quarterfinals and won its first semifinal match.

“Unfortunately,” Troha said, “one of our alliance partner’s robots blew its air compressor and was unable to contribute any points after that match.”

The team lost its next two matches and was eliminated in the semifinals.

“However, this was the furthest we have ever gone in the competition and puts us as one of the top 16 alliances in the world,” Troha said.

“This was an extraordinary competition for us,” said Marsha Steffen, a team mentor. “We are so very excited with our performance and the ability to serve so many students in such a wonderful program. I was told by one of our recent alumni that this program is one of the only things that keep some kids excited about high school.”

Ryan Kelly, a sophomore at West Linn High School, calls his robotics experience “amazing.” The two-year veteran said, “Seeing our robot come together over the past few months has been so amazing. And it is even more amazing to be able to say, ‘I made this part,’ and to know so much about how our machine works.”

“The students came together and exhibited gracious professionalism and hard work throughout the week,” Troha said. “They are probably very exhausted — I know I am — but they should also be very proud.”

Pride was evident among team members.

“The fact that Team 1425 not only got to worlds but ended up in the top 10 percent of all the teams competing, in my first year, is amazing,” said Tristan Briggler, a freshman at Wilsonville. “I look forward to the next three years of high school with this awesome group of people.”

Wilsonville student Karen Harper, a junior in her third year on the team, agreed.

“Doing well in the competition in St. Louis just shows how well a bunch of high schoolers like us can do when we come together for a common goal,” she said. “Being on the team has been a great overall experience for me. The team’s motto is ‘Building robots, building people,’ and this is basically what it accomplishes. ... After three years on the team, I am a relatively confident, successful individual, ready to take on the world and whatever it will bring.”

Next up for the team was a trip to Salem for FIRST Day at the Capitol. There, students met in small groups to discuss their experiences and advocate for funding for science, technology, engineering and math programs in Oregon schools. Members of the team will be at a robotics open house at Inza Wood Middle School on May 16.

Pascale Patterson earns special recognition

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Scholarship recipient Pascale Patterson, far right, poses with FIRST founder Dean Kamen, a fellow honoree from Cerritos, Calif., and musician will.i.am.One member of Error Code Xero came home from the world championships in St. Louis with more than a sense of accomplishment. Pascale Patterson, a senior at West Linn High School, also brought home a $10,000 scholarship.

The recipient of one of three 2013 inaugural Dr. Bart Kamen Memorial FIRST Scholarship Fund awards, Patterson was honored for her innovation, respect for science and engineering and compassion in the pursuit of study in biomedical engineering. She is also a National Merit semifinalist.

“Because of this scholarship,” Patterson said, “I can afford to attend University of Washington, where I will be able to participate in one of the best undergraduate bioengineering programs. … I have the means to attend this institution and fulfill this dream thanks to the Dr. Bart Kamen Memorial Scholarship.”

The scholarship fund was established by inventor Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST, a nonprofit organization aimed at inspiring young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. Kamen established the scholarship fund to honor the memory of his brother, Bart, a FIRST volunteer and distinguished pediatric oncologist who died in 2012. The fund will award renewable grants of $10,000 each to three students annually.



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