Almost 400 students aged 9 to 14 from schools all around the Gorge showed off their robotic talents over the last two weekends in the Gorge. Sixty-five student teams worked over the past several months as part of the international robotics competition known as FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) to compete in one of the Columbia Gorge Qualifying Tournaments held Dec. 3 and 4 at The Dalles Middle School or Dec. 10 and 11 at Wy’east Middle School.
Tournament organizers and teams this year faced a new challenge with the weather conditions over the second weekend. Ultimately, the Dec. 10 event was canceled and the Dec. 11 had a delayed start. While some teams from Dec. 10 were able to come on Dec. 11, 16 teams did not get to compete. “Canceling a tournament is always a hard call,” said Tournament Director Jessica Metta. “The dates are set at a national level and canceled events cannot be rescheduled. That means that months of effort from the students ends without the fun and excitement of a tournament.”
To accommodate those 16 teams affected by the weather, tournament organizers are planning an unofficial scrimmage in January. Those teams will also be placed in a lottery and four or five will be randomly chosen to advance to the State tournament.
The Gorge events are held by the Gorge Technology Alliance (GTA) with support from Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program, North Wasco County School District 21, Hood River County School District, Hood River County Education Foundation and White Salmon Valley Education Foundation. Local event sponsors include Boeing, Google and Insitu. Google also provides significant funding to support the Columbia Gorge robotics teams through Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program.
At the Gorge FLL tournaments, teams demonstrate their robot’s capabilities on the competition table, are interviewed by a robot design panel, present their Animal Allies research project and are assessed on teamwork skills. The teams impressed the judges, referees and tournament volunteers with their knowledge and teamwork. Each single-day tournament generates its own separate award winners and several teams that advance to the state tournaments.
From the three full days of competition held, the overall top teams were chosen to advance to the Oregon State Tournaments on January 14 or 15 in Hillsboro. The fourteen teams from the Gorge heading to Hillsboro include:
- Overall 1st Place Champions: Fusion X from The Dalles Middle, BFDs (Big Friendly Dragons) from May Street, The Titans from Hood River Middle.
- Overall 2nd Place Champions: The Technos from Henkle Middle, The Pandriods from Wy’east Middle, The Meme Team from Hood River Middle.
- Additional top teams that advanced to the state tournament: Brick Busters from Horizon Christian, Robotic Destroyers from Irrigon, Hillbilly Tech Support from Sherman County, Robo Cheetahs from Colonel Wright, Yello Jackets from Hood River Middle, Tech Rex from Wy’east Middle, P4 from Vancouver and the Electronic Penguins from Little Oak Montessori in White Salmon.
Additional top awards were given to a number of teams for their outstanding performances in specific areas of the competition:
- Core Values award: Brick Busters from Horizon Christian, Superbots from The Dalles Middle and P4 from Vancouver.
- Project award: 2% Humans from Trout Lake, SWAG from Hood River and Robotic Acorns from May Street Elementary.
- Robot Design award: Robo-Bros from Goldendale Middle, Rockin’ Robot Monkeys from May Street and Tech Rex from Wy’east Middle.
- Robot Performance award: Robotic Catfishes from Westside Elementary, The Pandriods from Wy’east Middle and The Titans from Hood River Middle.
- Rising Star award: RoboKeepers from Goldendale Middle and Electronic Penguins from Little Oak Montessori.