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AHS NeoBots finish fourth at World Championship


Courtesy Photo

Arlington High School NeoBots mentor Mark Ehrhardt and treasurer Burch Walker show the awards the team earned during the FIRST Robotics Competition, April 19 to 22, in Houston, Texas.

Arlington High School's NeoBots robotics team competed with other teams from around the world this April and came in fourth place at the world championship.

The competition in Houston, Texas, was held from April 19 to 22 and more than 400 teams attended.

Teams build and program robots using limited resources to perform specific assigned tasks and then test against other robots during the competition.

The Arlington High School team won the Hopper Sub-division and then competed in the finals, where their four-team alliance finished fourth.

The local team was one of the wild card teams selected by lottery to go to the event and it was the first time they had been to the international championship.

"We felt lucky just to be able to go because we were one of the teams that won the lottery to go," said Arlington High School student and club member Parker Sudderth. "We just thought 'we're going to go, we're going to have fun,'" he said.

"I honestly didn't think we were going to make it very far, but I still wanted to go because I thought we could do good," said Arlington High School student and club member Jakob Stickles.

Others on the team were also optimistic.

"We weren't actually sure how well we would do, but I did know that Washington is a very competitive district and I knew we did fairly well at those events so I thought we might have a competitive chance," said club member and student Brandon Kovach.

Once at the event the team's robot began performing better than anyone thought it would.

"We kind of panicked once we got there because we were in second place for the entire first day, which was nuts," said club member Charly Waddell.

"As soon as we were in the quarter finals, that was already better than we expected. Then in the semi-finals we thought, 'this is as far as we're going to go.' Then we make it to the finals and start thinking maybe we could win the division," said Stickles.

For many of the students, it was a longer trip than they had ever taken before.

"I was mostly excited. I was a little bit nervous, of course, because I was going to the opposite side of the country," said Stickles. "I have never actually left the west coast before this."

Kovach said he enjoyed how big the event was.

"I liked how big it was and the venues and how many people attended," he said.

"I liked interacting with teams from other countries," he said. Teams came from all over the world including Israel, Mexico, Russia and China.

Different regions also approached the robot building differently, said Waddell.

"It was really fun to see what kinds of robots made it. Looking at everything from a design standpoint, it was interesting to see how they varied from the Pacific Northwest robots," she said.

It was also a lot of work for the team.

"It was very stressful and most of the time we were all really tired off of five hours of sleep," said Sudderth.

"But it was super exciting and mostly unbelievable, and it really didn't sink in until I got back home," he said.

Robotics club members say that they enjoy being a part of the club.

"I try to go to every single meeting, even if its optional, because I like doing this stuff," said Stickles.

Sudderth said it has been great seeing the club grow over his four years in the club.

"I'm a senior of this club and so this is my last year and it's been a really great final year. We've improved a lot since I was a freshman," he said.

Mentor of the Arlington High School NeoBots robotics team Mark Ehrhardt also wanted to thank all those who contributed to the trip.

"We had to raise money to pay for the airfares, travel and registration fees, and we want to thank all of the people that helped," he said.

"In 30 days we raised about $24,000. The amount of community support was overwhelming," he added.

Local manufacturing companies like B/E Aerospace contributed, along with former students of the club, he said.

"What I thought was really cool was we had more than $2,000 coming from former team members," said Ehrhardt.


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