2017-05-18 / News

Fledgling teams at RHS, HLHS, CHA, McBain robotics team competes at FIRST


ROOKIE ROBOCATS The Houghton Lake High School RoboCats team No. 6552 competed as a rookie team this year in Gaylord and Traverse City. Pictured are (left to right) Gloria Lambert, Ashley Lee, advisor Dennis Saglimbene, Derrick Vo, advisor Darrell Partenio, Hunter Tyrrell and Madison Speer. (Courtesy photo) ROOKIE ROBOCATS The Houghton Lake High School RoboCats team No. 6552 competed as a rookie team this year in Gaylord and Traverse City. Pictured are (left to right) Gloria Lambert, Ashley Lee, advisor Dennis Saglimbene, Derrick Vo, advisor Darrell Partenio, Hunter Tyrrell and Madison Speer. (Courtesy photo) For more photos of the McBain Rambler Robotics Team, click here.

Gears, problem-solving, teamwork and communication – these are all components within a robotics team.

While robotics teams are fairly new to some northern Michigan high schools, one team recently took their robot to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) World Championship in St. Louis, MO.

McBain High School’s Rambler Robotics Team #6066 qualified for the FIRST competition, held the weekend of April 29-30, at various venues throughout the city.

Sophomore Isabella Gandolfi, daughter of Gary and Tammy (Bowman) Gandolfi of Falmouth, said this is the second year McBain has had a robotics team. She has been on the team for both of those years.


ROSCOBOTS Roscommon High School competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition for the second year. Considered team number 6074, the Roscobots team consisted of (front row, left to right) Noah Ekdom, Ian Wybraniec, Dominic Tatrai, (back row) Zach Rice, Jon Suvada, Logan Badia, Michael Ficaj, Coach Ric Rothney, Jessica Disney, Lilly Meadows and River Neff. (Courtesy photo) ROSCOBOTS Roscommon High School competed in the FIRST Robotics Competition for the second year. Considered team number 6074, the Roscobots team consisted of (front row, left to right) Noah Ekdom, Ian Wybraniec, Dominic Tatrai, (back row) Zach Rice, Jon Suvada, Logan Badia, Michael Ficaj, Coach Ric Rothney, Jessica Disney, Lilly Meadows and River Neff. (Courtesy photo) “I plan to be on this team for the rest of my high school years because this team is really fun and has taught me a lot about engineering and communication,” she said.

Gandolfi, who would like to be an engineer, said the team competed in two district competitions prior to Worlds.

“After those, we had earned enough points to qualify for the state competition,” she said.

McBain High School math teacher Dannette Utecht, an advisor to the team (and Gandolfi’s aunt) said Rambler Robotics ended up 74th in the state, so the team qualified for Worlds.


AT WORLDS The McBain Rambler Robotics team competed at the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, MO, the weekend of April 29-30. In only their second year, they ended their season in 55th place. Pictured are some of the members of the 24-member Rambler Robotics team (left tor right) Brandan Haysmer, Jared Dunham, Isabella Gandolfi, Cassidy Cook, Kara Mosher, Caiden Brinks, Aurora Bellini (the Gandolfi’s exchange student from Italy) and Adrien Towner. “I plan to be on this team for the rest of my high school years,” Gandolfi said, “because this team is really fun and has taught me a lot about engineering and communication.” (Courtesy photo) AT WORLDS The McBain Rambler Robotics team competed at the FIRST World Championship in St. Louis, MO, the weekend of April 29-30. In only their second year, they ended their season in 55th place. Pictured are some of the members of the 24-member Rambler Robotics team (left tor right) Brandan Haysmer, Jared Dunham, Isabella Gandolfi, Cassidy Cook, Kara Mosher, Caiden Brinks, Aurora Bellini (the Gandolfi’s exchange student from Italy) and Adrien Towner. “I plan to be on this team for the rest of my high school years,” Gandolfi said, “because this team is really fun and has taught me a lot about engineering and communication.” (Courtesy photo) Gandolfi was part of a team of 24 students that included Emmitt Bronkema, Caiden Brinks, Gavin Callahan, Jade Cantrall, Careline Cook, Cassidy Cook, Issac Dunham, Jared Dunham, Richard Fauble, Hunter Freeland, Brandon Haysmer, Zack Haysmer, Kaden Jacobson, Kameron Kelley, Reggie McLean, Kara Mosher, Jack Racignol, Hunter Ransom, Andrew Roby, Victor Romero, Wayne Roper, Adrien Towner and Gabe Warfield. The students on the team were divided into mechanical, electrical, programming and marketing groups.

“Each January there is a game reveal – simultaneously broadcast around the world,” Utecht explained. “At the reveal, teams are given the challenge, rules and a kit of parts. They have approximately six weeks to design and build a robot to meet that challenge. All robots are ‘bagged’ on the same day at midnight.”

Utecht said Michigan has the most teams, by far, than any other state, about 500.

“In Michigan, there are six weeks of competitions with multiple locations each week,” she said. “Each team competes in two of these competitions.”

Rambler Robotics competed at Kettering University in Flint and Gaylord High School. Teams earned points at each of these competitions and at the end of the season, the top 160 teams qualified for the state finals at Saginaw Valley State Valley University April 12-15.

“Our team came in second place at Kettering University and lost in the quarterfinals at Gaylord; thereby, earning our spot at states,” Utecht said.

At the St. Louis Worlds competition, Gandolfi said, there were six divisions with about 68 teams in each.

“We were in the Carson division,” she said. “After the first day we were placed in 18th. Then on the second day our robot kept disconnecting and we ended up in 55th place on our field.”

Gandolfi and her teammates learned from the experience and she looks forward to a new season.

“Even though we did not do great, we are still proud that we made it there,” she said, “and we have a lot of new information to help us next year.”

When asked which was more difficult – building the machine to complete a task or communicating with her teammates, she said “both were a challenge.”

“I don’t think one outranked another,” she said. “We had all team meetings on Monday so that we could communicate with each other (we have a marketing team, mechanical team, programing team and an electrical team). There were challenges with building the robot, but one of the hardest parts was figuring out what tasks we wanted to accomplish and what order to accomplish them in.”

Utecht said that during the competitions the team is broken up into different groups: The drive team drives the robot in the competition, the pit crew is in charge of maintaining and fixing the robot if it should break, scouters who scout the competition and social media team members who post updates during the competition matches.

Because Michigan has so many teams, Utecht explained, it is allotted 80 spots to the FIRST Robotics World Championship. This year the event consisted of about 600 teams from more than 30 countries, she said.

Utecht said during the first day of competition Rambler Robotics was ranked 15th in its division, “but electrical issues plagued us on the second day and we did not make the playoffs.”

At one point, Rambler Robotics was placed as high as 11th, she said.

The challenge for teams, Utecht said, was for robots to retrieve gears from the opponent’s end of field and deliver it to their “ship.”

“Our pilot collected the gears and used them to start rotors to prepare for flight,” she said. “With 30 seconds left, the pilot deployed the rope so the robot could ‘come on board’ or climb the rope onto the ship. Some robots could also shoot ‘fuel’ balls to get points, but that was not a part of our design/game strategy.”

Utecht said the students worked together to design, build, program and market the robot.

“I thought the kids did wonderful,” she said.

The team also had to raise money to support itself and pay for travel expenses.

In order to pay for the trip, students solicited donations from local companies and community members and hosted a pop can drive/car wash, Utecht said. The trip has been almost completely paid for by donations from these sources and the McBain school, she said. The students will continue to raise money to finish paying for the trip, as well as the registration fees for next season.

“I love robotics in that it gives kids from a wide variety of disciplines a chance to work together and be on a team,” she said. “Everything that people remark on and the memories that are made on any sports team or musical group is now available for kids who excel in neither of those areas. Robotics team members need to make a commitment and maintain eligibility just like any other team. One main difference is stated on the FIRST website: ‘Robotics. The only sport where every team member can go pro.’”

While at the competition, the team spent some time touring the Gateway Arch, the science museum, the city museum and the old courthouse and viewing the Mississippi River, Utecht said. Some of the students had not left Michigan before, she said, and many had never been west of the Mississippi River.

She said Rambler Robotics Team fans can follow the team on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Houghton Lake High School

Houghton Lake High School formed a FIRST team for the first time this year.

The Robocats team, which met after school, consisted of five students, Gloria Lambert, Ashley Lee, Derrick Vo, Hunter Tyrrell and Madison Speer.

Advisor Darrell Partenio (who coadvises with Dennis Saglimbene) said he wrote grants for the team and received approval in late-December/early-January.

“We didn’t have anything,” he said.

Kick-off for the competition is the same day for all teams, he said, and once the team received parts for the robot, members had six weeks to complete it. Because Houghton Lake was a rookie team, it received an extra kit, he said.

At a competition in Gaylord March 17, the team had some things break, but were able to move up from 38th place to 32nd place, out of 40 teams.

“I think we did pretty well,” Partenio said.

Teams play three-on-three in alliances, he explained. At a competition in Traverse City, Houghton Lake was in first at one point, he said.

Due to the way in which teams qualify for play-offs, Houghton Lake did not advance to the play-offs.

Partenio said The Home Depot was the team’s sponsor this year and that the team will be looking for additional sponsors for next year.

The team is also recruiting for next year. Email Partenio at parteniod@hlcsk12.net.

Roscommon High School

Ric Rothney, advisor to the Roscommon High School robotics team, said this is the second year RHS students have participated.

“It was a really good experience,” Rothney said of the Traverse City event. “We did pretty well at our last competition.”

The team, which ranked 7th out of 39 teams, consisted of a core of students including Michael Ficaj, Dominic Tatrai, Jon Suvada, Noah Ekdom, Zach Rice, David White, Logan Badia, Lilly Meadows and River Neff.

Being a part of a robotics team requires more than the “geek aspect,” he said, because teams have to present their ideas to businesses, keep track of sponsors and communicate, which provides for a “well-rounded” experience.

One aspect that impressed him at competition, he said, is the “gracious professionalism” exhibited by other robotics teams, especially in northern Michigan. Pit crews were willing to loan parts and help other teams, he said, adding that the Roscommon team had an “unofficial mentor team,” from Petoskey High School.

Like Houghton Lake, Rothney said the RHS team is looking for team sponsors. He said he is retiring at the end of the school year, but anyone interested may contact him at the high school or contact Principal MJ Ewald.

Charlton Heston Academy

Charlton Heston Academy students also participated in a robotics team, The CHA Circuits No. 6649.

Co-coach James Tice, who teaches science, said this was the team’s first year competing. Members were juniors, Nathan Bonus, Patrick Fink, Lillian Tucker, Angel Brethauer, Olivia Tunison, Faith Kimball, Destiny McNally and freshman Kyle Franzen.

The team competed at the Gaylord competition.

“It was just an awesome experience,” Tice said. “It was a great time. We really learned a lot.”

He said the students are bright and were well-behaved. Their other cocoach was Lindsey Nemeth, who, he said, teaches English and Spanish, and brought a different perspective to the team and offered a lot of help.

The team was also assisted by several parents and was sponsored by the St. Helen Optimist Club.

“We’ll be back next year,” Tice said of the Circuits.

For photos of the McBain Rambler Robotics Team, see the Resorter’s photo gallery at www.houghtonlakeresorter.com for photos courtesy of Gary Gandolfi.

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