A couple area high school robotics teams are preparing for the World Championships later this month in St. Louis after they were part of the winning alliance in the Kansas City regional competition in March.
Lee's Summit North's Broncobots team joined forces with Fort Osage's Career and Tech Center team, CTC Inspire, and a team from Katy, Texas, for what turned out to be the top trio at the Robotics Greater Kansas City FIRST Robotics Regional, March 17-18 at the Metro Community College Business & Technology Campus.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championships are April 26-29.
“We have had an amazing season,” said Ginger McCabe, one of the coaches for Fort Osage's second-year team. “At the Greater Kansas City regional, we had a really good first day and our second day we struggled a bit. But we had a solid robot; the kids built an amazing robot.”
After the preliminary rounds, the Broncobots selected CTC Inspire – spelled with the mathematical symbol for pi in place of the letters “pi” – for their alliance.
“We had the fourth-seed alliance, and by the time it was all said and done, we went to the finals and beat the first seed to win the tournament,” McCabe said.
The semifinal win came over an alliance that included Lee's Summit's Team Driven and the Independence FBI team – First Bots of Independence, consisting of students from all three district high schools.
“It was kind of exciting for the kids, but then the gracious professionalism kicked in,” McCabe. “We knew that whoever won, Independence would be well-represented at the World Championships.”
Last year, CTC Inspire competed at worlds after being named a rookie all-star. In a more recent competition in Minneapolis, the team finished preliminary rounds third out of 60, so it got to be an alliance captain for the final rounds.
“That's kind of unheard-of for a second-year team,” McCabe said.
Early in the Kansas City competition, the CTC Inspire students realized a change their robot needed to maximize points. They decided to take out a storage mechanism for the Wiffle balls the robots use in competition, allowing them to alter the climbing mechanism for more speed.
“That was amazing,” freshman Kyra McCabe said of the regional competition. “It was very interesting because we didn't know how we would perform with a robot we hadn't climbed with before.”
The younger McCabe said the 22-member team simply wants to have the best experience possible in St. Louis. Mark Benefiel also coaches CTC Inspire, and peer mentors are Brent and Brandon Mammen.
“Having these adults that can guide the kids,” the elder McCabe said, “we definitely would not be where we are without them.”
North's Broncobots team now has qualified for the World Championships seven times since 2008, and the team also won the Excellence in Engineering Award at the regional. At a separate regional competition in Iowa, the Broncobots won the Safety Award and Regional Engineering Inspiration Award, the latter of which nets a $5,000 grant from NASA.
All three of Lee's Summit's high school teams have qualified for worlds, the fifth time in nine years that has happened.
Independence's FBI team also competed at the Midwest Regional two weeks ago in Chicago, hoping for a repeat trip to worlds. It got selected for one of the final alliances there, but that group could not advance past the quarterfinals. Blue Springs' Robocats team – consisting of students from Blue Springs, South and Valley View high schools – did not advance out of the Greater Kansas City or Iowa regionals.