Moffat County High School’s rookie robotics team wins inspiration at regional competition |

Moffat County High School’s rookie robotics team wins inspiration at regional competition

The 2019 rookie Moffat County High School FIRST robotics team.
MoCo Robo/Courtesy

The new year brought a new activity to Moffat County High School — the first FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics team.

During spring break, team MoCo Robo joined 52 other teams, more than 1,300 students, and engineering mentors to showcase their hard work in the FIRST Robotics Competition at the University of Denver Ritchie Center Arena.

“One of the greatest things about the competition is that you get to do stuff you never would have done otherwise and the chance to build a robot,” said team member Alexander Nichols.

The season launched on Jan. 4.

A two-year NASA sponsorship helped the team purchase the $6,000 robot rookie kit — that included standard parts and rules — and also paid for competition registrations.

For the next six weeks, students sponsors Mila Khoroosi and Chad Backsen, and mentors — Sean Hovorka, Wade Gerber, John Meinhart, and Glenn Sexton — spent two to three hours after school and some weekends in the Vocational Agriculture building, designing, constructing, and programming their robot.

Team members also launched a Google classroom and a Facebook page, and secured additional financial sponsorships, according to team member Kyle Robinson.

“Everyone tried almost everything,” said Nichols, who specialized in team finance.

The robot had to be capable of solving problems encountered in a fictional scenario. The 2019 mission — Destination Deep Space — was developed by Boeing and required teams to create robots that could collect samples on the fictional planet Primus.

“The tasks were based around rockets and cargo ships. … For example, we had to load cargo and put hatch panels on to keep the cargo in,” said Amelia Seim.

Two competing robot alliances also combated unpredictable terrain and weather patterns.

“It started with a giant screen, a sand storm,” said Cody Eckhoff.

He said the scenario tested the robots’ ability to operate, autonomously in some cases, while other teams were able to equip their machines with cameras to see past the simulated storm.

On the first day of the competition, MoCo Robo had to “redo almost everything,” Eckhoff said.

They worked for more than 12 hours to change the bumpers and reduce the height of the robot to comply with the rules of the competition.

When they needed tools, “other teams helped. We needed a nail gun, and five teams came over with a nail gun,” Eckhoff said.

Teams are encouraged to model “gracious professionalism,” described by FIRST Robotics as “a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community.”

The friendly nature of other teams impressed MoCo Robo team members.

“It’s not only about the robot; it’s about the people,” said Evan Allen.

Team members also had an opportunity to make friends with each other and the members of other teams.

“It’s great to be in the program and meet all the different teams and see what you could be doing with it,” said Maxwell Wood.

In turn, the team impressed judges, winning the 2019 Rookie Inspiration Award.

Personal growth

“I’m not really great at working well with others. I like to be the boss,” Allen said. “This has helped me a lot with that. I can now say I’m getting better at letting someone else take over.”

Competitions also measure the effectiveness of each robot, the power of collaboration, and the determination of students.

“What we’re doing is way more than a competition. While not every robot can win, all of the kids do,” said Donald Bossi, president of FIRST, adding, “FIRST inspires a lifelong love of learning that is critical to persevere in today’s ever-changing workforce. We’re developing the innovators, technology leaders, and creative problem solvers who will make the world a better place.”

Until the 2020 competition, MoCo Robo will be engaging in fundraising and a summer invitational in Denver.

Inventor Dean Kamen founded FIRST in 1989 to inspire an appreciation of science and technology in young people.

More than 3,900 U.S. teams and teams from more than 30 other countries worldwide competed in 62 regional events, 100 district events, and 11 district championships.

The organization hosts the FIRST Robotics Competition for students in grades 9 through 12; FIRST Tech Challenge for grades 7 through 12; FIRST LEGO League for grades 4 through 8; and FIRST LEGO League Jr. for grades kindergarten through 4.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or

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