Robotics has hoops theme this year

       After hosting the school's first-ever regional robotics “scrimmage” Feb. 18, Coronado High's Cougars Gone Wired team members are aiming at formal competitions March 1-3 in Kansas City and March 22-24 in Denver.

Checking their robot during the scrimmage in the Coronado High gym Feb. 18 are four of the Cougar team members (from left): Maggie Guinta, Joshua Munson, Jenna Humble and Sean Pharris.
Westside Pioneer photo

       A total of 44 students are on the Coronado robotics team. This year's extracurricular endeavor dates back six weeks, when the group started building a six-wheeled unit that can roll around, scoop balls up from the floor and shoot them through a basketball hoop.
       These skills - plus one or two others - meet the rules for this year's national robotics game, titled "Rebound Rumble." The event, which combines competition with cooperation among participants, was organized by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), a nonprofit organization founded 20 years ago to encourage young engineers.
       This is the fourth year Coronado has had a robotics team. Its assigned number is 2996, with this year's unit nicknamed "Rough Draft." The name reflects the fact that the unit was meant to be a prototype, but it turned out better than a second machine the team built, according to senior Jasmine Kemble, the two-time team CEO.
       As in past years, the team has not just focused on robot construction but also on various support aspects, including community outreach that involves close ties with engineering mentors and sponsors. The team is modeled after a corporation, with a CEO, CFO and vice presidents overseeing different parts of the process.
       Under the FIRST rules, only students can work on the robots, but they can consult with knowledgeable adults. In playful reference to that, Bryce McLean, a Coronado engineering teacher who had helped start the school's robotics effort in 2009, put a hand on Rough Draft at the group's annual robot-unveiling banquet Feb. 21 and joked about how thrilled he was to finally be able to touch it.
       But McLean also praised the kids, whose robotics work has occurred after school as well as on weekends and sometimes late into the night: "I can remember senior projects in college that weren't this intense, and they [Cougars Gone Wired] did this in six weeks," he said.
       FIRST sent Coronado a kit with the Rebound Rumble parts, and (again within the rules) team members were able to combine those with other parts to design their own unique machine.
       Examples of different robot types were on display in the Coronado gym Feb. 18. In all, about 10 schools or school districts brought units to the six-hour event. Mats were laid over most of the Coronado gymnasium floor, and pockets of students, teachers and mentors in team-color T-shirts could be seen tinkering with their robots and/or trying them out on a "playing field" with basketball hoops. That field, which matched the Rebound Rumble specifications, had been built by the Coronado group, with much of it (including the basketball backboard), put together in the school's wood shop, according to science teacher Lynne Williams, another teacher/advisor.

Checking their robot during the scrimmage in the Coronado High gym Feb. 18 are four of the Cougar team members (from left): Maggie Guinta, Joshua Munson, Jenna Humble and Sean Pharris.
Westside Pioneer photo

       On Feb. 18, the teams still had a few more days to work on their machines (Feb. 21 was the deadline), so the scrimmage was an opportunity to reveal where deficiencies might exist.
       This pre-deadline scrimmage has been held in past years at the Colorado School of Mines. However, this year the high school that had been organizing it did not have a big enough team to keep it going, explained Scott Von Thun, a Mines freshman who was visiting the scrimmage. A Coronado graduate and class valedictorian, Von Thun had helped lead the school's robotics efforts from 2009 to his graduation last May.
       McLean said he believes the robotics scrimmage was the first ever hosted in southern Colorado.
       According to the FIRST website, "The 2012 'Rebound Rumble' robotics game is played between two Alliances of three teams each. Each Alliance competes by trying to score as many of the basketballs in the hoops as possible during the two-minute and 15-second match. Balls scored in higher hoops score teams more points. Team Alliances are awarded bonus points if they are balanced on bridges at the end of the match."

Westside Pioneer article