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Berthoud robotics earns three awards in largest tournament in Colorado history

December 13, 2019 | Education
Photo by Jordan Schachterle – Lily Burtis, Julian Kaiser, and Ellie Sundheim from team Critical Mass compete in a qulifying match.

By Jordan Schachterle

The Surveyor

It was an eventful Saturday for the robotics world as Berthoud High School hosted the largest tournament in Colorado history. Thirty-four teams participated in the Berthoud Tower Takeover Performance Only VRC Tournament, with six of them made up of Spartan students. Additionally, in the Berthoud Squared Away Performance Only VEX IQ Tournament, there were 32 teams with three from Berthoud.

“We have an amazing parent and mentor group and volunteer group that put this all together,” Berthoud robotics advisor Robb Sommerfeld said. “It really was the parents and the volunteers and the folks Ken and Liz Rayment from Actionworks that made this happen.”

In the high-school and middle-school tournament, the Tower Takeover, there were two different competitions. There was a skills challenge, which tested certain elements of each robot, but the main competition was the 1st division. There were 39 total qualifying matches and 15 bracket matches in the contest. In each match, two teams were paired together in alliances that worked together to get the highest score. In the playing field, there were various colored cubes each team could stack and also towers in which the cubes could be placed. The placement of the cubes means everything, as the values of the colors can change throughout the match.

Needless to say, the matches were very complicated. The teams spent countless hours perfecting the programming and design of their robots to successfully complete the tasks. On top of that, the teams had to think quickly on their feet to make strategic moves during each match. No robots were the same in the tournament, and each team considered many factors to make the best robot.

“We have a robot that picks up cubes in such a way that we can just tilt the tray forward and drop the cubes into the zone in one big stack,” senior Julian Kaiser said about team Critical Mass’ robot design and functions, “We can also put the cubes off of the back into the towers.”

Critical Mass and their allied team faced off against fellow Berthoud Robotics team Livewire. The blue alliance, made up of Livewire and another team, won the match with a score of 38-10. The tournament championship qualified Livewire for the Colorado 2020 State Championships and for the Create US Open, a national robotics tournament.

“I think it’s a great honor,” Livewire team member Will Packenham said about the team’s qualifications. “I’ve never been to a competition like nationals before. It’s great to be able to go and be recognized for working so hard.”

Berthoud Robotics team Critical Mass has also qualified for both the state and nationals’ competitions. They earned two awards on Saturday: Tournament Finalists and Robot Skills 2nd place. The three trophies carried home by Berthoud Robotics teams were huge representations of the amount of work they put into their program.

The Squared Away Performance Tournament was for elementary and middle-school teams. Ivy Stockwell Elementary and Berthoud Elementary worked together to form two teams for the competition and Turner Middle School had another.

This section of the tournament was new to BHS this year. Berthoud Robotics wanted to give as much opportunity to as many kids as possible, so they created the younger tournament. It took a lot of extra work, but with the help of generous volunteers, the tournament directors, and the program’s mentors and coaches who offered their time, they successfully completed the tournament.

Although none of the Berthoud area teams earned awards, the kids enjoyed their time at the tournament. Two elementary-school students shared their favorite thing about being a part of robotics.

Auron Hall said, “My favorite part about robotics is definitely my team,” and Maddix Frame added by saying, “You get to have a lot of friends; you get to have good sportsmanship; and you get to have adults that support you.”

Just like the high-school students, hours of work were put into the robots made by the Berthoud teams. They had to go through the same design, test and practice stages to get their robots ready for competition.

“It was a constant process of trial and error,” middle-schooler Ayden Pream said about creating his team’s robot.  “Mainly, we were able to find systems that worked, but the problem was figuring out how to get them to stay together.”

Each and every student involved in the Berthoud Robotics program, from the seniors in high school to the third and fourth graders, puts in hours of work and huge amounts of effort to perfect their robots for competition. Two of Berthoud’s teams are already qualified for state and national tournaments, and the rest of the Berthoud teams will continue competing, hoping to accomplish the same goal.  

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