Stevens County robotics team’s excel in competition

Special to the S-E

Stevens County made its mark in the FIRST (for Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics world last weekend. Both Kettle Falls and Northport high schools have teams in the program.

Thirty teams from Oregon and Washington competed last Friday and Saturday in a game that involved robots collecting and shooting whiffle balls, collecting and placing gears, and climbing a rope.

Each match was played with competing three-team alliances, but the alliances changed from match to match in the qualification rounds. Strategies changed constantly based on each team’s capabilities. Each team played in 12 of 60 qualification matches. Permanent alliance selections were made at the start of the quarterfinals, allowing the trio to work together through the higher levels of elimination.

Northport is in its second year of the FIRST program. NHS was in Saturday’s winning alliance with teams from Spokane and Palouse. Being on a winning alliance automatically qualified the three robots to compete at the next level.

“FIRST Robotics gives students and opportunity to learn and emulate real world career skills in a challenging and exciting way,” pointed out Dave Glanville, lead coach for Northport. “Every year I am amazed and surprised anew by the growth and development that my team members show.”

Veteran Kettle Falls was paired with two teams from Spokane Valley. KFHS made it as far as the quarterfinals. Perhaps even better, though, was being recognized with the Engineering and Inspiration Award.

To be considered for this award, a team must show outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s school and community.

Winning this merit-based award makes the Kettle Falls team eligible to compete against other teams in the District championship level Engineering Inspiration Award at Eastern Washington University. Their robot, however, still has to qualify based on points from two competitions.

“Our team is on the young side,” said KFHS Lead coach Naomi Edwards. “But they are doing so much and learning how to take on leadership roles in this complex competition this year. I couldn’t be more impressed with their growth this season.”

Every FIRST team spends six weeks designing and building a robot to meet specifications and goals. Each of the 155 teams in the Pacific Northwest District compete at two of seven two-day District events. Eligibility for a team’s robot to compete at the District Championships (At EWU April 6-8) is based on ranking points earned at their two competitions or being on a winning alliance.

The first of the seven weekends saw 70 teams competing within the District. Northport’s team is currently ranked 11th and Kettle Falls is 29th. Both teams will compete March 17-18 at Central Washington University (Ellensburg).