Gearing up for competitions

Millard West Robotics team participates in a statewide tournament


photo courtesy of Scott McCoid

Stacking up blocks with their robot, juniors Dominic Zohlen, Andrew Heftie and senior Tyler McCoid participate at their 3rd CREATE competition in Hampton, Neb. During their competition, the team had a few struggles at the start, but they still managed to push through and win a few awards. “We have prepared long and hard for this competition and being able to spend a great time with teammates to present what we are capable of was really rewarding,” McCoid said. “I even got on the news with Channel 4 Hastings to voice out and explain how we performed on this CREATE Competition.”

Jordan Bakar, Staff Reporter

On Saturday, December 7th, the Millard West CatBotics team from the organization took part in the CREATE Open Robotics Competition in Hampton, Neb. The event took place inside the Hampton High School gym and 10 other schools from all over the state were competitors in the competition. 

Named the “Millard West Men in Black,” juniors Matthew Heftie, Andrew Heftie, Dominic Zohlen and senior Tyler McCoid all have spent a great amount of time preparing and testing their robot for the competition in the CREATE tournament. The team commenced their building of the bots at the very start of the school year and ever since then, they have diligently trialed and tested the bots. They worked on the finishing touches and made sure that everything ran smoothly, the night before the competition. 

Before the competition,  it was just a little past 6 a.m. as the team trekked from Omaha and traveled approximately 200 miles west to make it to the competition on time. From there, they spent a whole day partaking in the various robotic skills and programing skills challenges, inspections, the qualification rounds, judging interviews and the awards ceremony.

“I thought the competition overall was very well organized, and the CREATE competition administrators have put in a great deal of time to make sure everything runs smoothly,” McCoid said. “As a whole, our team was very successful, placing 3rd in skills. We received an innovation award for one of the challenges we competed in.”

Each competition comes with its surprises; the team is tasked with a new challenge the robot must overcome. In the case of this competition, the objective of the robots was to stack blocks and create a standing tower. 

Despite all the precautions and inspections, the CatBotics team, unfortunately, ran into a few issues and conflicts during the competition that put them at a slight disadvantage. The process of building these machines and making sure that it operates correctly can be quite the challenge to achieve.

“At the beginning of the competition, one of the chains broke in the intake system on our machine,” Andrew Heftie said. “We also had an issue with the honk command as it caused the Arduino to crash in the robot programming. The bot stopped working on numerous occasions, but with troubleshooting, we eventually got the bot to function.” 

With all this in mind, the team learned some valuable lessons that they will not overlook next time.

“We have a few new ideas that we will implement into our bot during the next event,” Zohlen said. “This competition has shown us that even with all the security measures we had taken, errors can occur randomly.”

This was the 3rd CREATE competition that the Millard West CatBotics team has participated in during the 2019-2020 school year. From past events even including this one, the team has received numerous awards, acknowledgments and honorable mentions as a result of their passionate effort. 

“Our team placed 8th in the qualifying round and left with a distinctive award in the aftermath of the tournament,” robotics teacher Scott Bohlken said. “We acquired the Hampton Robotics CREATE Open Tournament 2020 Innovate Award so we didn’t leave empty-handed.”

The Millard West CatBotics team members have had a string of vast successes in the past tournaments and are optimistic to sustain the momentum going into the new year and the years following. 

Their next CREATE competition to date will take place in January 2020 at St. Paul Public Schools, in St. Paul Neb.