Several FIRST Robotics teams from the Mahoning Valley spent the weekend competing at the Buckeye Regional competition at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
For many teams, it was their first in-person competition since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic. The 2020 season was canceled shortly after it began and the 2021 season took place virtually.
The Cleveland event included 60 high school teams from Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York with local teams from Austintown Fitch, Canfield, Champion, Girard, Howland and Warren G. Harding. Girard finished the competition in sixth place, while Champion finished 16th. Austintown Fitch placed 18th, Warren G. Harding placed 34th, Canfield ended up in 42nd and Howland placed 49th.
Andy Yantes, adviser for the Austintown Fitch Falco Tech 3193 team, said it has 15 members, including 10 seniors competing in their last season.
“The team is mostly seniors who have been with the team for the past couple of years. We have a small team, but the seniors have done well as have the new members,” he said.
The Austintown team traveled to the Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York, for the first regional competition of the season earlier this month.
Yantes said Austintown finished in 14th place at Rochester and 18th at the Buckeye Regional in an alliance with the Girard Robocats before both teams were eliminated in the semifinals.
He said he and the team were excited to be back competing in person.
“The team was glad to get to meet teams from Pennsylvania and New York and to be at the competitions again,” Yantes said.
Judy Barber, one of the Girard team’s advisers, said the students did well considering they have not been competing in person since late February 2020.
“We have a very new team. There are only five members who have been to competition before. The rest of the team is new. … I am very proud of what the team has done this season. The robot did very well and the members all came together and worked well as a team,” Barber said, noting the team also competed in Pittsburgh in mid-March.
This is Girard’s 23rd season of competing.
Barber said the local teams will be able to take part in some off-season events in the fall.
The FIRST Robotics teams were given their challenge in early January and spent much of the winter designing and programming their robots.
The robot is required to climb and throw a ball as part of the challenges. The robot has to shoot balls into a large hoop. He said what is unique is a person on the team also gets to shoot the balls into the hoop at half court.
The robot has to get the dodgeballs into a hub either by rolling it in or shooting it in. Near the end of the game, the robot has to climb monkey bars to score points.
Howland High School’s team, Howland 8718 Tiger Botics, which is marking its first year competing, received numerous rookie awards, including the “Rookie All Star Award” at the regional competition, which qualifies them to compete at the world championship in Houston in April.
The Howland team is being mentored by the Warren Harding High School Delphi E.L.I.T.E. FIRST Robotics Team 48, which is in its 25th year.