Third place state finish earns robotics team trip to Toronto

By JEFF BRADY

The Aquabots from Skagway School took third place at the state robotics tournament in Anchorage and will be traveling to an international FIRST Lego League competition in Toronto this June.

The Skagway team earned strong scores in three of the four components of the competition among 54 teams from all over Alaska on Jan. 25. Where the team possibly lost a chance at a second straight state title was in the robot competition arena, where its robot finished out of the top 10 but in 15th place.

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The waiting at the awards ceremony was nerve-racking to see if the Aquabots did well enough for a top three champions award and an opportunity to move on. They were obviously thrilled when the third place award was announced.

“The team did fabulous, “ said coach Greg Clem. “They actually got a 36 out of 36 for robot design, a perfect score; a 32 out of 36 for their core values; and a 28 out of 36 for their presentation. So they did awesome in all the events.”

The team’s project for this year’s “Nature’s Fury” international theme was a floating storage unit for residents who live in areas that are prone to flooding, like Dyea. The “FSU” will hold up your car, fuel tanks and anything that could potentially have hazardous effects on the water in the event of a flood.

The robot, whose nickname has progressed from “Quicksilver” to “Meglatron” to “Demon”, was the biggest at the state event, and had the most moving parts, including a jaws-like device on the front for grabbing and moving trucks. It earned the perfect design score and performed well for the most part in the arena. However there were some hitches in a few of its missions over the 2.5-minute run on the obstacle course that lost some points.

“Where we had a little problem was the robot did not want to cooperate for some reason, so we had little bit of a hard time getting the robot to do what it is supposed to do,” Clem said.

The Aquabots’ best score was a 272, while the winning score was 459. But it was good enough, given the high scores in all the team’s other elements.

“We are really happy with third place,” Clem said. “We are heading to Toronto.”

There were going to be three invitations coming to the winners in Anchorage, two to the North American championship at Legoland California, and one to a competition in Canada.

The top two teams chose California, so Skagway figured it would be heading over the border. Originally it was thought that would be at a Canadian championship in Montreal next month, but word came last week that it would be a new international FLL festival in Toronto June 1-4.

The fundraising has already begun. An Elks burger feed and dessert auction last week raised close to $1,000, and there are plans in the works for an online and silent auction and a barbecue feed next month.

“We have to raise between $10,000 and $15,000, but now we have a little time to do it,” Clem said. “The middle of the summer should be a fun time to be in Toronto.”