Washington hosts a robotics competition |  Southeast Iowa Union

Washington hosts a robotics competition | Southeast Iowa Union

From left, Washington Eagle Boots members Colin McClain, Isabel Krueger and Jaden Schreiber join their alliance team for the round, Mechanic Durant. (Calen McCain/Union)

The Finger Titans from Riverside (left) plan their next round strategy with a team from Solon. (Calen McCain/Union)

Eli Conrad hot swaps the battery on his Eaglebots robot between rounds. (Calen McCain/Union)

From left, Eaglebot Colin McClain, trainer Jim Beecher and mentor Bill Beecher solve their bot code before the next round of the competition. Bot participants design every part of their device, including writing the code to control it. (Calen McCain/Union)

The judges watch as Highland’s Finger Titans lead the robot in a cone stacking challenge. (Calen McCain/Union)

Eaglebots has teamed up with City High School in Iowa City for a round of robotics competition. Participants change “alliances” in each round, which is the criterion that guarantees “agile professionalism” among the competitors. (Calen McCain/Union)

WASHINGTON — A total of 13 teams from across the state came to the Washington County Fairgrounds this past weekend for the robotics competition, which is officially called the 1st Tech Challenge Robotics Meet.

Such competitions change goals every year. In this tournament, the games involved strategically stacking cones on markers around the arena, a task each bot was specially designed to do.

Hosting the event was his own team-building drill, said Jim Beecher, coach of the Washington 4-H team called the Eaglebots.

“It’s for the love of the sport,” he said. “We host one because it helps build team and parent collaboration. It’s part of our team development, it’s just as important to get parents involved and be aware of what their kids are doing.”

Participants design and build their own robots each year, doing everything from managing batteries to installing gears to programming code for the units to move. Some teams order custom parts for their creations, others do what they can with repaired equipment.

Pitcher said the activity built the professional skills of the participants.

“These kids aren’t students, they’re members of the team, which is really a very important concept,” he said. “We work as an engineering team just like Collins Aerospace and John Deere and any company that has an engineering team. We have a problem to solve, we’re building a bot to solve that problem.”

Challenges require teams to work together in 2-on-2 matches, working in temporary select alliances. However, their partner team in one round may be their opponent in the next.

Participants called the idea “gracious professionalism,” and said it keeps competitors ambitious, yet respectful.

“Some of the other bands, we’re not as closely acquainted with them as others,” said Eaglebutts member Eli Conrad. “But we can still work with them like any other team.”

These alliances work together, trying to overcome each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Doing so requires not only cooperation, but adapting to each round.

“We don’t usually have new stuff, so you can see with other teams, they have bigger, more expensive karts,” said Gwen Peet, a member of the Highland robotics club known as the Finger Titans. “You’ll see how other teams get innovative, and work around that.”

In addition, Piette said, the competitors are eager to help each other, even when they are not directly allied.

Once upon a time, she said, we had an engine outage, and a whole bunch of teams got together like, ‘Do you need an engine, do you need help fixing this? “It’s like one big community.”

Participants said that the work of the robots was rewarding, with a clear display of their work in each competition.

“There’s nothing else like it,” said Isabel Krueger, Eaglebots member and coach. All your sweat, blood, and tears flowing, moving, breathing, it’s amazing. “

Comments: Kalen.McCain@southeastiowaunion.com


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