CMS Robotics team thrives at competition
Craig Middle School’s robotics team placed second in the Mountain Qualifier robotics competition on Jan. 22. Competing against teams from across the region, the team also brought home an award for Best Robot Design.
“I think what’s special about this group, too, was they were competing against juniors and seniors,” CMS engineering teacher Cristina Vanzo said. “So a lot of the juniors and seniors were approaching us at competition just amazed by their age and the fact that they are competing in an advanced robotics level.”
The CMS team’s robot, named Betsy 2002, was built to complete tasks in a small arena in order to gain points in the competition.
“We build a real robot, and by ‘real’ I mean, it’s made of raw materials such as metal, wires and 3D printing a lot,” team member Lex Bergstrom. “As you can see, it’s not made of Legos. We also have multiple subteams, too, and we divided up to fulfill certain tasks to complete all our needs.”
Beginning in September, the team of 16 CMS 7th and 8th graders built (and rebuilt) their machine based on needs and problems that arose. Zach Crookston, who was on the building team for the robot, said that the team often had to redesign different aspects of Betsy 2002 when it couldn’t do certain tasks.
“We decided to change (an earlier design) because we realized that it was way too low to the ground. Like when we went over the barriers, it would get stuck in the middle,” Crookston said. “We wouldn’t be able to accomplish anything or do anything.”
Eventually, he said, they ended up with the final design, which luckily ran smoothly on competition day.
Students were also split up into different sub-teams, so each of them could focus and specialize in one area of the robot, team member Mason Sullivan said.
“Our different sub-teams are building, strategy, managers, working in outreach, programming and 3D design,” Sullivan said. “They all have their different uses, which are typed in the names like in outreach, we reach out to the community and make the logos for our team and things. The 3D design team made our claws, 3D models (and) different parts of the robot. Strategy team knew every part of the rules (for the competition) and also planned out what we’re doing.”
Students on the team also put together a 15-page professional portfolio that outlines their entire building process at each step — including mistakes and triumphs.
“Being an engineer means solving problems,” Vanzo said. “It means not being discouraged when something goes wrong, because something goes wrong all the time. It’s just part of the game. And I think our kids have learned to be more resilient because of it.”
Robotics learning has expanded to every level of the Moffat County School District — with elementary, middle and high school students having the opportunity to participate. Makylee Ott, a member of the marketing and outreach team, said that her team works hard to make sure that they are working with younger students to bring them onto the middle school’s team.
“We go out into our community and get their support,” Ott said. “And so they’ll hopefully join our program when they get into sixth grade. Last Thursday, and the Thursday before that, we went to the elementary schools and showed them our program. And then this Thursday, we’re going to do that. We’re showing them the program and hopefully they’ll really want to join it.”
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The Kiwanis Club of Craig has recognized eight students for exemplary academics, extracurricular involvement and overall achievements by naming them 2022 scholars.