A robot built by a Strongsville-based team will represent the city in state championships Feb. 16 after going undefeated at a qualifying tournament in Columbus.
The bot, named "5067," was built and programmed by seven high school students who meet as often as three times a week to tinker with a mechanical creation most of us couldn't drive, let alone build.
"You just sort of figure it out as you go," said Andy Rygalski, one of five Strongsville High School sophomores on the team.
Right now, they're adding a ramp they say will help their robot lift another robot off the ground, which will earn them big points at the state competition.
The team is part of FIRST, a national organization that promotes technology skills and hosts the competitions.
The five Strongsville members -- Rygalski, Zach Zoloty, Chad Mroczka, James Reese and Joey Noble -- have been together since the sixth grade, when they formed the Bionic Barracudas to compete in FIRST's lower-level competitions, which use LEGO pieces to create robots.
David Sadowski, a junior from Avon, joined last year when the other members of his team, the Quantum Bots, graduated from high school. When he did, the two groups merged names, becoming the Quantum Barracudas.
David's cousin, Paul Carias of Berea, has also recently come on board.
Now, they're part of FIRST Tech Challenge, which puts high school students and their robots in a 12-by-12-foot arena to go head-to-head with other teams' bots.
No, they don't fight, "but they do bump and jostle," David said.
The goal of the competition is to manuever your robot to take plastic rings off posts and place them strategically onto pegs on a center rack -- while your opponents are doing the same, and sometimes intentionally getting in your way.
"It takes a lot of coordination," David said.
The boys feel they feel they have a decent shot at winning the state finals this year and moving on to the international competition in St. Louis.
"Last year, we were runners-up at state, and this year, we've gotten a lot better, so I think we have a chance," Zach said.
Robot Times 2
The Quantum Barracudas are a neighborhood team, coached by Doug and Michelle Reese, while most other teams are affiliated with schools.
That leaves them on their own as far as funding, so they're starting to look for local sponsors so they can build a second robot.
That way, they'll be able to try new designs without taking apart their original bot, and also be able to practice for competitions with two robots in the ring.
Anyone interested in sponsoring can contact Michelle Reese at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: One You Tube video is attached to this story. Here is a link to another: