| CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County High School robotics team gearing up for Denver

CRAIG — Some of Moffat County High School’s smartest minds will be putting their heads together as robotics team number 7485 — the first ever to grace Craig’s high school.

“We are a rookie team,” said Moffat County School District Superintendent David Ulrich on Saturday. “I know our kids can compete and do this.”

The FIRST Robotics Competition (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) was founded in 1989 to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology, according to the group’s website. The competition pits student robotics teams from across the United States against one another in a pre-determined field designed to challenge robots built by each team from a universal kit.

This year’s national high school competition is called “Destination Deep Space” and is sponsored by Boeing. Craig’s team will have six weeks, beginning Jan. 4, to build their robots using the same universal kit provided to every team. A manual is provided, which incorporates all the rules of the competition, as well as the dimensions and particulars of the field on which the robots must operate.

Two potential team members watch the FIRST Robotics Competition kickoff Saturday, Jan. 5.

The team must complete a series of tasks in a simulated habitat on another planet. Robots and their handlers must brave sandstorms while loading and securing large, spherical cargo and flat, round hatch panels in a harsh environment. Handlers can operate their robots manually with a controller or autonomously using code. Teams score points by feeding the cargo and hatch panels to their robots through universal feeds. The robots are then tasked with loading the cargo and hatch panels onto a ground-level cargo ship, which automatically scores acquired cargo once it’s secured correctly.

The field’s second obstacle is a small, three-level rocket ship that must be filled with cargo and secured with hatch panels, suggesting robots must be able to deal with higher obstacles.

Other obstacles highlight the need for autonomous operation during a sandstorm; this is accomplished by placing a curtain over the team area so operators cannot see and must depend upon their robot’s coded autonomy to complete tasks.

At least four students have dedicated themselves to the team at MCHS, but several others attended Friday who said they were thinking about joining.

Joshua Gumber, a 16-year-old junior at Moffat County High School, was one of those students definitely planning to help his school’s robotics team win.

“I think it’s really interesting and fascinating, and I’m really proud of our (school) board for bringing this to the high school,” Gumber said.

FIRST robotics is one of several new initiatives being undertaken by Moffat County School District after the closure of East Elementary School in Craig to make room in the budget.

Superintendent David Ulrich speaks to students and parents at the FIRST Robotics Competition kickoff Saturday, Jan. 5.

“We are able to do new and better things for our kids because of the very tough choices that the board of education has been very supportive of, and FIRST is just one example,” Ulrich said.

Gumber said he’s taking an AP class on coding and plans to use his coding skills to help automate the school’s first robot.

“I’m pretty fluent in JavaScript,” Gumber said.

Though they are a rookie robotics team, Gumber said he’s just hoping to have fun when the team travels to Denver for the regional finals in March.

“I think we’ll do the best we can do,” Gumber said. “We’re a relatively small community with a small team. I’m just hoping to have some fun with it at the regional competition. Hopefully, we can come out with a win.”

Contact Clay Thorp at 970-875-1795 or cthorp@craigdailypress.com.