ESCANABA – Hundreds of high school students across the U.P. and the state are in Escanaba Friday, March 17, and Saturday, March 18, for the regional FIRST Robotics competition at the Escanaba High School.
Thirty-nine robotics teams including 31 from the Upper Peninsula will be competing this week at the regional competition.
Escanaba’s First Robotics team, the Robomos, are hosting the event. Senior Mike Groeneveld says this year’s theme is called Steamworks.
“We’re talking like meshing different gears,” Groeneveld said. “It’s actually part of the game. Some of the game pieces are plastic gears which we have to receive from a chute in the wall into the robot and then have to place them on a peg so they can go up on a tower in the middle of the field so they can mesh with other gears. Once they mesh with other gears, they can make these rotors turn and that’s how you collect points.”
Escanaba has already competed in one regional competition. Sophomore Tyler Retlich says they struggled at that competition but have made adjustments to be more competitive this week.
“We took off a few pieces that did seem to be needed and machined a few holes to lighten the robot,” said Retlich. “We also reconfigured the shooter so it fires better and added a channel that the balls will run through. It works a lot better that way.”
Allison Peltin and Macy Leisenring are Freshmen on the Robomo team. Peltin said part of their job is to scout other teams to see how they perform.
“We look at how many high goals and stuff that they make, how many gears they can deliver and if they can climb the rope or not. Then we give that to the scouting captains and they put that into a computer. That tells us – if we make it to playoffs – how to picks different teams,” said Peltin.
Teams must partner with other schools to gain points. Leisenring says watching the other teams is part of the fun.
“I think it’s kind of cool to see what other robots can do compared to yours because then it gives you an idea what other teams are looking for. I thought it was pretty fun,” said Leisenring.
The competition will be held Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Spectators can also view the robots in the pits set up in the commons outside the high school gym.