Members of the Outlaw Robotics Team 8023 participated in their first tournament.  photo provided
Members of the Outlaw Robotics Team 8023 participated in their first tournament. photo provided

Members of the newly established Outlaw Robotics Team 8023 participated last Saturday, January 11, in the First Technical Challenge (FTC) at the Hood River Oregon qualifying tournament. FTC is a robotics program for seventh- through 12th-grade students, based on a sports model, but focusing on engaging the students in science, technology, engineering and math.

Teams compete in an alliance format against other teams.

This year's new seventh-grade team members include David Novotny, Tyler Wonderly, and Dalton Gonzales from Sisters Middle School, Kincaid Smeltzer from Black Butte School and Spencer Bordonaro, home-schooled (absent from the competition due to illness). Their team was sponsored by Oregon University System ORTOP Program.

Outlaw Robotics started last fall, when they received the FTC starter kit to build their robot. After many hours of brainstorming, planning, building, alternating, and programming, the robot came to life. Even though the most exciting aspect is to drive the robot, it is a whole team effort during the game to plan the best strategy, and be diligent in all the technical details.

Coach/leader Jirka Novotny said at the beginning of the season: "We are a small, rookie team, but we are very enthusiastic and ready to take on the FTC challenge. We are having fun building robots and are excited by technology."

Adam Novotny, who is a high school junior at Redmond Proficiency Academy (RPA) and a captain of the RPA FTC team, was the Outlaw Robotics mentor and gave assistance in their strategy and programming.

This year FTC "Block Party" Challenge required the robots to perform in autonomous mode, which is programing only - no driver involved - and then with driver control move cubes, raise a flag, and hang on a bar above ground. Points are accrued per task and under time restrictions. "Our robot's strength was in the autonomous code, and in hanging off the bar, it worked perfectly every time," said the Outlaws.

Out of 23 competing teams in the FTC Hood River qualifying tournament, Sisters Robotics advanced to semifinals after winning in the five qualification rounds. In the semi-finals the top four teams have the opportunity to select two other alliances to complement their team's strengths and weaknesses. Outlaw Robotics was aligned with a team from Hood River High School and another Central Oregon team from Redmond's RPA. After nerve-wracking matches and tight scoring differences, they advanced to the finals. After winning two out of three matches the alliance teams won the tournament. (Trophy plate reads: 2013-2014 Hood River Classic Qualifying Tournament Winning Alliance).

The tournament took all day, starting at 8 a.m. with robot inspections, team member interviews, judging of the teams' engineering book, team spirit, cooperation and outreach. Tightly scheduled matches took place from noon to 6 p.m., with the final award ceremony at the end.

"Considering it is the Outlaw Robotics first experience and being the youngest competitors, it is a great achievement and inspiration for the future," said Coach Novotny.

Their second tournament will take place January 25, in Bend at Summit High School, and fans and general public are welcome to see the robot competition and cheer Outlaw Robotics on.

The Outlaw Robotics team is currently busy making improvements to their robot. They are limited by their resources to improve their accuracy and IR beacon sensor. They would be very appreciative if they were to receive any financial support from the Sisters community.

Donate via the team's website, www.sistersrobotics.

com, or contact coach Novotny at 541-549-8425. The team is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organized under the 4-H OSU program.