Camas fares well at robotics contest

Students from Hayes Freedom, Camas High and Liberty Middle schools bring home hardware

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The mission: Design, build and program a robot “dragster” to race down a narrow lane and accurately stop when it “sees” the finish line.

That is the challenge which students at Camas High, Hayes Freedom High and Liberty Middle schools accepted.

The students competed with their Dragsters, SumoBots and Line Racers at the fifth-annual South Sound STEM Robotics Invite in Olympia recently.

This was the first time for any of the Camas schools to attend, and with the experience came lots of learning, teamwork and wins, according to Ron Wright, who teaches the robotics classes at the high school level.

“All of our students had a great time there,” he said. “The Olympia School District did a great job of running this tournament. Their district is also doing a great job of promoting robotics throughout Washington state.

“It was their district that we visited last year, and largely followed, in our implementation of robotics in the Camas School District this year.”

Out of 10 high school teams competing, Camas students took home many of the awards. The top two finishers of each event were awarded a plaque.

Winners include: Dragster, first place: Alex Wolfe (driver), Seth Downey and Lucas Bell (builders) – CHS; Dragster, second place: Austin Schmunk, Tyler Allen – Hayes Freedom; Line Racer, first-place: Ian Pinch, Roberto Palma, Nathaniel Maszak – Liberty; Line Racer, second-place: Michael Boyle, Nathan Chilian (builders), Lacy Dunlop (driver) – CHS; SumoBot, first-place: Kris Cocks, Ryan Wessel – CHS.

The high school with the best overall team score was CHS. Hayes Freedom placed fifth and Liberty placed sixth.

In addition to the students above, other students helping generate the high team scores and standings at the tournament were: Justin Flint, Jeffery Liao, Brandon Cady, Justin Ang, Bryant Wilson, Lucas Wickizer and Sabastian Shideler (CHS); Hunter Rukstad, Kyl Krecklow, Cassie Russell and Jeremy McCall (HFHS); and Joseph Marugg and Alex Breuer (LMS).

Their teachers include Wright, Kelly Williams and Skyler Gillespie. All three work together collaborating on robotics curriculum ideas and lesson plans.

Williams, who teaches the CHS classes with Wright, is pleased with the effort the students put forth.

“It was a pleasant surprise given the fact it was our first year with the program and our kids being exposed to robotics, and we were up against programs that had been doing this for four years,” he said.

Both he and Wright agree that a big key to their success is that the program emphasizes problem solving.

“After the first six weeks of training, our lesson plans were mostly to give them a problem task with constraints, and they worked until they solved the problem or they ran up against a deadline,” Wright said. “So, when we got this tournament’s problem statements, the students were ready for the challenge, with three weeks to solve the problems.

“And since we had four classes of kids working on them, competing for the relatively few slots to represent us, we were able to send the best of our best to the tourney.”