Robotics teams on the rise

Dallas school programs catching on, achieving success

Twenty-four high school robotics teams competed at Dallas High School’s SkyRise tournament on Saturday.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
Twenty-four high school robotics teams competed at Dallas High School’s SkyRise tournament on Saturday.

DALLAS — The Dallas High robotics Team ramRod experienced engine failure at the wrong time — just as it began driving its robot onto the competition field.

The team was one of 24 at Dallas High School’s SkyRise Tourney Saturday and was sitting in second place before the second-to-the-last scrimmage began.

It was time to improvise, and the team did it to perfection, maneuvering around its dead right engine to complete tasks — moving and stacking cubes — and score points.


Jacob Reimer, second from right, and Jake Shryer, third from right, maneuver their team's robot during a scrimmage Saturday. The team won despite technical difficulties.

When the final buzzer went off, Team ramRod and its handicapped robot made a good showing.

“We still won,” said team member Jacob Reimer as he and teammate Jake Shryer repaired the engine before the last scrimmage. “That’s the important part.”

DHS robotics coach Lee Jones said the robotics program has come a long way since fielding just one team six years ago.

“I started with three students,” he said. “Now we are at 20.”

More growth is on the horizon, as LaCreole Middle School has launched its own program this year. LaCreole’s robotics squads were part of 18 middle school teams that participated in a separate middle school tournament at DHS Saturday.

LaCreole coach Jacob Gradek said the competition was a good warmup for next month’s state tournament. Because there aren’t very many middle school teams in Oregon’s VEX Robotics program, all teams in the state will be making the trip to North Marion High School in Aurora March 7 to see who will represent the state in the national competition.

“It’s a challenge every day,” said seventh-grader Hunter Allison-Petersen, who with his partner Collin Graves, an eighth-grader, and their robot, Sheila, qualified for the finals round Saturday.

Both said their favorite aspects of robotics is designing and programming their robot. They said they were looking forward to competing at the high school level in the coming years.

Gradek said LaCreole added robotics to the class schedule this year and he is excited to see the enthusiasm from his students.

“It’s just incredibly rewarding,” said Gradek, who also served as the tournament emcee. “Seeing what they come up with, it’s our first year, but it’s great to see the growth in the program.”

In Team ramRod, they have something to aspire to in the coming years. Jones believes the team, which placed well in matches before the final elimination round, has a chance do well at state — and beyond.

Shryer, a senior, said the program offers more than just a chance to bring home trophies.

“My main reason for joining was for scholarship opportunities and it looks good on college applications,” he said. “I want to be an engineer, so it’s pretty applicable to my major.”

Along the way, he’s found out engineering really is a field he will enjoy — and another valuable lesson he will likely fall back on in his career: test and retest your designs.

“Your first designs aren’t going to work,” he said. “You have to see what works, what doesn’t, and make it better.”

And they did.

At the end of the day, Team ramRod, partnering with another Dallas robotics squad, Jones’ #1 Fans, took home tournament champion honors — and set a school record for points scored in one match at 71. The award earned the two teams a trip to the Oregon VEX Robotics Competition state championship in March and high school U.S. Open Robotics Championship in April.

A third Dallas team, Your Mom Goes to College, won the tournament sportsmanship award.

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