Park City High School’s Robominers sweep Utah’s state championship
The emcee counted down the seconds for the Robominers team to rush its robot back to the balancing stone. Twenty seconds, then 10 seconds, then the buzzer sounded and the students dropped their controls. As the eight team members added up the points, score trackers did the same. When the scores were announced, everyone on the team yelled out “Yes!”
The Park City High School robotics team had won the FIRST Tech Challenge Utah state championships.
This is the first time in four years that the team has taken first at the competition. Plus, it walked away with the Inspire award, which is given to the team that is most positive, inclusive, innovative and professional. Outreach efforts in their communities are also taken into account.
The team will be going to the U.S. Super Regional Championship in Spokane, Washington, in March. Another of the high school’s teams, Team Inconceivable, also qualified for Super Regionals at a championship held in Idaho last weekend. This is the first time that two teams from PCHS have made it to Super Regionals, said Laura Monty, co-coach of the robotics club.
Valentin Astie, the designer and builder for the Robominers, said it is nice to see something come out of the hours spent designing and creating the robot, programming it, practicing driving it, doing community outreach and troubleshooting errors.
“It’s just really satisfying,” he said. “You’ve put all this work into it, and to finally see that it pays off and you finally get it, it’s just the greatest feeling.”
He attributes part of the team’s success at the championships to the time the members spend together. On average, they practice for about 15 hours a week. Sometimes, they practice for 30 hours.
Plus, Andrew Stucker, captain, said that they put a lot of work into designing and building the robot early so that they would have plenty of time to practice fulfilling all of the tasks that it needed to do during the competitions.
Astie said that because of the long hours working with the robot, they were able to catch problems as well. Two days before the state competition, the team noticed that the moving belts on the robot were not working properly. They took apart the robot and fixed it before it could become a greater problem.
“As you practice, you start to see the flaws in the robot,” he said. “Take the belts, for example. We would not have found them if we hadn’t kept practicing.”
But even with hours of practicing, obstacles still present themselves at every competition. The previous Saturday in Montana, their robot failed inspection and they were up until 1 a.m. fixing it.
And then there was competition day, when their robot disconnected during one match, said Slade Schemmer, a builder and driver for the team.
“It happens every competition,” he said. “Everyone’s robot works the night before, and on competition day, no one’s works.”
Despite setbacks, the team had high hopes for the competition. The week before the state championships in Utah, they competed in Montana and took second place. When they competed in Utah, they played the team that beat them in Montana and ended up on top.
Now, the team is prepping to compete at Super Regionals. Last year, the team placed fourth and qualified for the world championships, where it placed fifth.
Stucker said that last year’s placements are going to be hard to follow up this year, but he is hopeful that they can match or exceed them. Ultimately, he just wants to be able to return to worlds.
“The goal is just to get back,” he said. “It’s an accomplishment to be at the best of the best competition.”
The team has gone to the world competition for the last three years. The team is also set to take its robot to the Utah State Legislature on March 2 during Robotics Day at the Capitol.
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Park City High School students have had to adjust to remote learning once more after a spike in coronavirus cases forced the school to temporarily close its doors.