Left Hand Valley Courier - All Local, All The Time

By Vicky Dorvee

Up-A-Creek Robotics concludes best season yet


Ed Tabler

Photo by Ed Tabler Team 1619 from Up-A-Creek Robotics holds their division winner banner at the 2018 FIRST Robotics World Championship event in Houston. They went on to win third place overall at the event, the highest the team has ever placed.

Up-A-Creek Robotics Team 1619, comprised of primarily St. Vrain Valley School District students, came away from the 2018 FIRST Robotics World Championship competition in Houston with a third-place alliance finish, making this the most successful finish to a season for the team. Adding to the excitement of the finale, the team also earned the General Motors Industrial Design Award, which recognizes “form and function” for the robot that best performs each year’s assigned challenge.

Prior to the Houston trip, the team did battle over spring break at the Colorado Regional event at Magness Arena. There the students faced what they termed the “Texas Invasion” - six teams from the Lone Star State, and one in particular - the NASA sponsored Robonauts.

Up-A-Creek was the defending champion, having won this event the last three years. But that didn’t necessarily give it a mechanical leg up. Things got fairly heated as the locals faced off against a field of teams from Arizona, Colorado, and Texas, each with high merits of their own.

Team mentor for the past 12 years Teresa Ewing said, “The event was a real slugfest with Up-A-Creek, the Robonauts and RoboWranglers neck-in-neck throughout the qualification rounds. Up-A-Creek prevailed, and chose the RoboWranglers to partner with in the final rounds. However, a cube fell on our third partner’s power switch in a critical match, disabling their robot, and the Robonauts showed why they have won so many championships. So it was second place for us, but a hard fought match with plenty to be proud of. We were also awarded the Quality Award.”

Then it was on to the Idaho Regional event where underestimating the technical skills of a primarily rural area would be asking for trouble.

“As turns out, farm kids often know their way around a wrench due to the maintenance of farm machinery they do,” Ewing said. “The Idaho Regional has been dominated by the Micron-sponsored Team Tator, but they picked us as their alliance partner and we won.

“The best part of Idaho, however, was the Woodie Flowers Award, presented to the mentor of the year which went to our own Dr. Cathy Olkin,” Ewing said. “Cathy is an amazing mentor to the kids, and so supportive of all the mentors as well. She has a crazy, busy travel schedule, but always finds time for us.”

According to the website, “FIRST Robotics Competition combines the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. Teams of 10 students or more are challenged to design a team “brand,” hone teamwork skills, and build and program a robot to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors. It’s as close to real world engineering as a student can get.”

“Getting to meet the international teams was really wonderful, and inspired us to extend our reach beyond the US,” Ewing said. “The kids had a wonderful time trading pins and t-shirts with other teams, exploring the pits to see the other robots and talking to all the sponsors and college recruiters.”

With 400 teams total and 67 teams in their division, Up-A-Creek team members were all over the board with their best guess for the team’s prospects.

Team 1619’s Lead Strategist and Niwot High School senior Avi Moskoff said, “My expectations coming into championships were pretty low. Our division was more stacked than any other division and I knew that we were going to have to be at the top of our game in order to make it out.”

In contrast, Student Director of Communications and Niwot High School junior Noah Feldman said, “My expectations for the World Championship in Houston were high. I felt confident we would go far, and I’m happy with the fact that we won our very competitive division.”

It was touch and go for a while though as a critical match was lost in the qualifying rounds. But to huge fanfare, a higher-ranking team, the Citrus Circuits from California, chose Up-A-Creek as one of its alliance teams. To add to the anticipation, the Robonauts team reared its head again, but this time the Robonauts did not prevail.

Moskoff said, “It felt good to break past them in two matches and advance to the Einstein field. Just being on Einstein was a blast, and getting to play with and against the best of the best was a terrific experience for me and my team.”

“As a senior, all I wanted to do was make it to the Einstein field,” team member Linlee Morrison of Silver Creek High School said. “Our team has been getting better and better every year, and last year we got incredibly close to making it to Einstein before suffering some heartbreaking losses in the quarterfinals of our division. This year we were in a much more competitive division, so I was excited to see how we would do competing against some of the other well-known powerhouse teams. “

Niwot High School sophomore Esther Xu said, “I would say that the highlight of the competition was when our team won our division. When the final scores of the second finals match popped up on the screen, I couldn’t believe my eyes - we won the match with a two-point lead. I just remember jumping up and screaming with joy and relief. There were hugs all around. All of our hard work this season was paid off. From then on, everything else was just icing on the cake.”

Division champs had a round robin tournament for the finals and Up-A-Creek, came in third overall with their alliance teams.

Moskoff said, “I had the ideal senior experience at Houston because not only did we make it further than we ever have before, I also got to meet and talk to kids from all over the world about robots and code.”

“We were one of three teams to win the General Motors Industrial Design award,” Ewing said. “This is an honor we particularly covet and we are particularly proud of the seniors on our design team that worked hard for four years to acquire all the necessary skills - quite the Capstone project.”

Up-A-Creek Robotics Director of Operations and Silver Creek sophomore Chelsea Bandi said, “Team 1619 is one of the top blue banner winners in the world. This year we won five blue banners which was amazing. Since 2015 up to 2017 we have won seven banners, so five in one season is a huge accomplishment. “

Although the competitive season is officially done, the team will be attending the Indiana Robotics Invitation with other “all-star” teams. Team 1619 will be defending its number one status from last year’s event.

Team members will also be training incoming students, attending events where they demonstrate their robots, and Up-A-Creek summer camps will be underway for all ages from elementary school through high school.


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