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Students building robots competitively

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The sounds of whirring of gears, clacking controllers
and tinkling metal filled the air on the Coconino High School campus on a recent
Saturday as the school’s CocoNuts FIRST Robotics Team hosted two robotics events

The High Altitude Robotics Extravaganza included 25 FIRST Lego League teams and
12 FIRST Tech Challenge teams from Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. All the teams
were competing for a chance to advance to the next level of competition.

For the Lego League competition, dubbed “Nature’s Fury,” teams of kids, ages 9
to 14, had to invent robots that could help real-life communities respond to
natural disasters. Each team had to choose a community and learn about the
natural disasters that could strike that community.

They then had to come up with a solution to help keep people and property in
the community safe before, during or after a natural disaster.

The final piece was to build and program an autonomous robot to help implement
that solution using a Lego Mindstorms robot kit. The robots had to be able to
complete tasks like clearing debris off a runway, distributing water to people
in need and positioning evacuation signs.

The judges selected four Flagstaff teams and one Prescott team to advance to
the Arizona FIRST Lego League Championship on Dec. 14 at Arizona State
University. They were the Rock Lobsters of Basis Flagstaff, Wired of Cornerstone
Christian Academy, the Cromer Tornados of Cromer Elementary School, the Building
Bananas of Mountain School and the Sci-Clones of Granite Mountain Middle School
in Prescott.

All five teams scored in the top 40 percent in the robot performance category
and earned an “outstanding” in the areas of project, robot design and core

In the FIRST Tech Challenge competition, students in grades 7 to 12 were
invited to compete in this year’s challenge, called the “FTC Block Party.”
Unlike the Lego League competition, the FIRST Tech Challenge was set up like a
tournament, with teams competing against each other to win points by making
their robots perform assigned tasks in a game-like setting.

The teams had to use TETRIX, Matrix, and/or Lego robotics system kits to build
robots capable of moving small blocks to the scoring areas on the playing field
and the see-saw-like pendulum in the center of the field. Blocks placed on
different parts of the field were worth different amounts of points. Teams could
also earn points by making their robots raise a flag up a flag pole or hang from
a pull-up bar above the playing field.

Judges chose seven teams to advance to the Arizona FIRST Tech Challenge
Championship on Jan. 18, 2014, in Flagstaff. The Sinagua Mustangs Robotics team
was the only middle school team to make the cut, a feat made even more
impressive by the fact that the Mustangs are a rookie team that just started
this year.

Coco High’s AstroNuts were the only other Flagstaff team to advance to the
state championships.

The others were T-REX from Sonoran Science Academy in Tucson; Aerosquadron from
Highland High School in Gilbert; the Enterprisers community team from Reno,
Nev.; the Area 52 Robotics Southern Nevada neighborhood team from Henderson,
Nev.; and the AHERT Ravens Albuquerque Homeschool Engineering and Robotics Team
from Albuquerque, N.M.

Meanwhile, the CHS CocoNuts are keeping busy. After hosting two robotics
events, the team is already gearing up to help other host teams. They will
travel to Albuquerque to help out at the New Mexico Qualifying Tournament Dec.
7, Mesa to help with the Phoenix Metro Area Qualifying Tournament Dec. 14 and
Tucson to help with the Southern Arizona Qualifying Tournament Jan. 3.


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