After coming away from their regional competition empty-handed, the Rhinelander High School Robotics Club, or the Robo-Hodags, are already busy scheming for next year.
On Jan. 17, the group travelled to Hortonville to compete against other schools, and despite gaining the second-highest amount of points overall, the club was not among the eight schools who will go to compete on the state level at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“The challenge for this particular club comes out in the beginning of October. You’re supposed to design a robot to meet that challenge,” said Michael Wojtusik, RHS industrial tech teacher and mentor for the club. “You can do it however you want, but you’ve got certain parts that you have to use, there’s certain parts you can make. It’s pretty much up to you, but you figure out something that’s going to do what they want you to do. So that’s what we did, for three or four months.”
This is just the third year RHS has had a robotics program, but Wojtusik and the students are impressed with how far the program has come in just a short time.
“I think we did great, we did a lot better than last year, even though we placed better last year,” said Kenneth Routheaux, a senior in the club who worked on programming for the robot. “I feel like we truly did win this year, because we had the second highest scoring of all the robots. But unfortunately, the tournament’s ranking system was not based on scoring, it was based on wins.”
The competition is run as a series of matches with four participants. Alliances are randomly assigned to the schools, resulting in two-on-two matches. Sadly, wins are decided using aggregate scores of the alliance, so if a teammate does badly, it affects them as well.
Wojtusik said the Robo-Hodags scored between 80 and 130 points in every match, but more than once their comrade scored zero.
Although they won’t be continuing on past the qualifying round, the competition was a valuable learning experience for the students.
“It felt really cool to be a part of something that, even though we’re not in first place, we’re still really successful with the robots, so it’s fun,” said Sam Hext, another senior in the club, who plans on majoring in electrical engineering next fall.
“You get this adrenaline pump going,” Routheaux said. “You get excited for the tournament. And that’s important.”
“It’s been exciting. These are kids that want to compete, but they may not be athletic—this is their chance… this is their chance to get out and compete against other kids in their same field,” Wojtusik said. “It’s exciting working with them, seeing the smarts and the brains of some of these kids is amazing.”