Courtesy of Mike Wojtusik, RHS
On Friday, Feb. 5, the Rhinelander Robotics team traveled to Milwaukee to compete in the First Tech Challenge state tournament held in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. The team qualified for the state tournament by winning the Fox Valley Regional qualifier in January at Hortonville High School.
Friday consisted of the team and robot navigating strict inspection criteria where tournament officials ensure that the robot fits all hardware and software parameters as established in the tournament rules. The team had their robot set well within those boundaries and they were eager to compete the following day.
Saturday morning the Robohodags participated in the judging portion of the event, which included an interview from a panel of judges made up of engineers and professors from UWM, and were required to answer a series of questions pertaining to the learning process experienced by the group of aspiring engineers. These questions ranged from technical questions about the bot to fundraising and community outreach programs that the club is involved with. The students did a great job of representing Rhinelander and the entire Northwoods throughout the judging process.
Competition matches began shortly after the judging portion of the event and concluded with the Robohodags competing against what would eventually prove to be the state champions, Hortonville Robotics. The first of five matches for the day ended with the Robohodags experiencing what would be their only catastrophic failure of the competition when their robot flipped over on its back while attempting to climb the mountain obstacle, leaving them unable to score any points and resulting in their only loss of the preliminary rounds. Inthe next four matches the Robohodags, led by senior captain Adam Engel, junior captain Marshall Dana, and senior competition coach and captain Bailey Nebgen, along with their alliances, swept up the preliminary competition and finished the qualifying rounds with an outstanding record of four wins and one loss. With those four wins, the Robohodags came storming back to receive the fourth and final seed, setting them up with a chance to compete at the national tournament held in St. Louis.
From the remaining 20 teams not seeded, the Robohodags had to choose two of those teams that would form a three team alliance and compete in the coveted championship rounds. After a quick meeting and discussion, it was decided that “The Phoenix” from Madison and “Great Scott!” from Homestead High School in Mequon would be asked to become alliances with the Robohodags. Engel, in front of a crowd of about 200 people, graciously invited the two teams to join the Robohodags, the only team from northern Wisconsin, into the exciting final rounds. As expected, those two teams accepted the Robohodags invitation.
The championship rounds consisted of the best of three semifinal matches in which the alliance teams of the Robohodags would be matched with the three teams from the number one seed. Seeds two and three would be staged against each other in the other half of the championship bracket, setting up what would be one final “best of three series” to see who moved on to St Louis.
The Robohodags chose to have the high scoring machine of the Phoenix to be their first match alliance as their average scores were a bit higher than that of Great Scott! The first round went well for the blue alliance with the Robohodags team coming out on top by over 100 points. The second match in the best out of three series would go to red alliance team of “Straight Out of Wiscomption,” and “That Team!” from Homestead High. It was in match two that the Robohodags began to experience an intermittent problem with the right hand drive motor which resulted in a lower score than normal from the Rhinelander team, setting up the elimination match with the winner moving to the state championship.
With only about five minutes between matches, the team had no chance to switch the failing motor but held hope it would last. The final match started out well for the blue alliance with the Robohodags positioning themselves to earn enough points to win the match and move to the final. However, the drive motor that slowed them in the previous match finally gave out and all the team could do is watch as the opposing alliance scored enough points to hand them the defeat.
The Robohodags were sponsored by Airpro, Walmart, Gaber Electric, Rhinelander Honda and Dr. Randall Natrop Dentistry.
Anyone interested in having the Robohodags demonstrate their knowledge of Robotics and STEM education or for more information about the club, contact Mike Wojtusik at email@example.com.