Local robotics teams continue to shine

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Local robotics teams continue to shinePictured: Murray students Gabriel Neipp, Sammy Nay, Lars Bartels and Wade Cushing celebrate their awards at the leagues championship in Hesperia earlier this month. — Photo by Timothy Neipp


With the regional contests now at an end, three local robotics teams will advance to higher levels of competition, while several others are celebrating league distinctions.Local teams from public, private and home-based schools spent months designing structural modifications and software for the VEX robotic kits that allow students to compete with their peers from dozens of schools across the High Desert. The robots must be programed and designed to outperform those of competing teams in an arena that allows for student-driven and autonomous systems.

Although the course of competition lasts only a few months, Burroughs High School Robotics Advisor Damien Jacotin said that students devote their entire year to the project.

Local schools, which typically meet once a week and rely on donations to fund their participation, often face teams with dedicated funding and daily instruction.

Despite these disadvantages, “The BHS robotics students have risen to the challenges of designing, prototyping, evaluating, red-lining and hair-pulling — but they have succeeded under the leadership of Akif Dhar and Aidan Murphree, the two lead engineers,” said Jacotin.“Other soft skills have also been developing along the lines of organization, time-management, fund-raising and communication. Sarah Bartels and Emily Aralar must be given credit for their leadership in this endeavor!”

Team 7422H from Burroughs High School, after winning the “Excellence” award and ranking No. 1 in the qualifications rounds in Hesperia, is gearing up for the California VEX Robotics Championships March 9-10 at the Kern County Fair. Meanwhile, that team is also in the process of raising the $10,000 necessary to travel to the national championships in Iowa this April.

Team 7422H also won the judges’ award during one day of the “Game of Cones” tournaments hosted by Sultana School in Hesperia.

Team 7422C, also from Burroughs, won the teamwork award during league play in Hesperia.

Murray Middle School’s Team 7422M, also won the coveted “Excellence” award.

According to Kate Champeny, the advisor for Murray’s teams, the award recognizes the team that exemplifies overall excellence in building a high-quality robotics program.

“We competed against 32 teams in our league — the thrill of winning the excellence award is still with us.”

She said that Lars Bartels, Gabriel Neipp and Sammy Nay are a “shining example of dedication devotion, hard work and teamwork. I am glancing at the clock that reads 4:13 p.m., and I can hear the team still working on their robot on a Tuesday afternoon.”

The team hopes that commitment will pay off. “Our biggest competition is ahead of us.”

The team also ranked No. 1 in the qualifying rounds during league play. In the final meet, they teamed up with Team 7496C from Immanuel Middle School to win the tournament championship. Both schools will now proceed to state championships in Vallejo.

Team 7496C also won the “Energy” award in Hesperia.

Team 7496H, a team of local homeschoolers, won the judge’s award in Hesperia. Team 7496S, also from Immanuel, won the “Think” award for technical excellence. They were the only team, out of 32 competitors, to operate consistently in autonomous mode.

At press time, the BHS team heading to nationals had raised more than $4,000 toward its goal (donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/bhs-robotics-to-nationals-in-iowa).

“This competition year has been very special to us all,” said Jacotin “And it’s not over yet!”

For all the traveling teams, Robotics for STEM has been a primary sponsor.

“This year we contributed approximately $11,000 to help cover expenses for all the teams,” said John Paul, president of Robotics for STEM.

However, he noted, with eight teams and 60 students, even the organization’s annual budget cannot cover all costs. “We could do more if more businesses supported us financially,” he said.

“A hundred percent of all financial donations go directly to support the teams.”

Current sponsors include New Directions Technologies, Inc,. American Loan Masters and Ridgecrest Regional Hospital. For more information visit www.roboticsforstem.com.

Story First Published: 2018-02-23