Robotics teams competing nationally

April 17, 2018 GMT

Students from Eugene-area schools are traveling to Houston on Tuesday to compete at the FIRST world robotics competition.

A team from Pleasant Hill and another team based out of South Eugene High School are heading to Texas after impressive showings in local and regional robotics competitions.

The teams are competing in different classifications so they won’t face each other no matter how far they progress.

Pleasant Hill High School’s “Gromit’s Grommets” is among 128 teams entered in the FIRST Tech Challenge part of the competition.

The South Eugene Robotics Team team, “SERT,” is one of 400 teams in the FIRST Robotics Competition.


“They’re really thrilled that they earned it,” said SERT mentor Lallie McKenzie. “They needed every point that they got (to qualify for the world championship) and there are ways to coast on other robot’s coattails, but they didn’t do that. They earned it with their design, hard work, programming and strategy.”

The competitions will take place in Houston Wednesday through Friday.

The Pleasant Hill team will compete with a 47-pound robot, while the south Eugene team will face off against other teams with its 120-pound robot.

Gromit’s Grommets has eight members: Ana Borg, Dylan Hammond, Eli Kopperud, Gabe Placko, Nathan Faber, Reece Hardy, Tristan Barrett and Kaleb Ames.

“It’s really fun,” Borg, 15, said on Monday. “I’ve been interested in science as a whole for a really long time, and then some of the more tech-related stuff like robotics in the last few years.”

The team was a division finalist at the Oregon State Championship in February, and earned a spot at the World Championship after competing at the Western States Super Regional event in Spokane last month. This is the second year that the Pleasant Hill team has advanced to the world championships, making it to the semifinals in 2017.

For this year’s competition, Pleasant Hill robotics students built their robot with eight motors and 18 sensors. Many of the parts were custom designed and made with a three dimensional printer, according to coach Rick Faber.

During the 2½-minute challenge, the robot has to complete pre-programmed tasks for about 30 seconds. The rest of the time, two students will control the robot’s movements and direct it to pick up blocks and move them into certain positions and patterns.

Faber said Monday that the Pleasant Hill team members were putting finishing touches on their robot. Students were eager to go on the trip, he said.


“We’re not done until the last minute,” he said with a laugh.

The south Eugene team, which includes students from South Eugene and other area high schools, has approximately 60 members. About 40 of them are “really active,” according to McKenzie, who said Monday that about 20 of them will travel to Houston Tuesday morning.

SERT’s robot “Poe,” which the team spent about six weeks constructing, has a three-foot-square base and its height can extend up to seven-feet-tall. Poe stands for power over Ethernet.

SERT qualified for the world championship competition by ranking well at district and regional competitions, and this year won the chairman’s award, given to a team that contributes significant community service.

Students on both the south Eugene and the Pleasant Hill teams used mechanical, electrical, business and programming skills to create their robots.

FIRST, the organization that is hosting the competition, is an international nonprofit organization founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology.

Follow Alisha Roemeling on Twitter @alisharoemeling. Email alisha.roemeling@registerguard.com .