2017-04-27 / Front Page

Rudyard Robotics Going to Finals

By Kevin R. Hess

The Rudyard Nerf Herders, Rudyard High School’s robotics team, is one of 82 Michigan teams, three Upper Peninsula teams, and the only Eastern Upper Peninsula team, to qualify for the FIRST Robotics Championship in St. Louis, Missouri, Wednesday, April 26, to Saturday, April 29. Rudyard qualified by finishing the season ranked 73rd in the state of Michigan. One hundred sixty of 451 teams in Michigan competed in the Michigan State Championship April 12 through April 15 at Saginaw Valley State University. Brimley, Rudyard, and Sault Ste. Marie each qualified. At the end of three days of competition, the Rudyard Nerf Herders finished with enough ranking points to qualify for the national championship. Brimley and Sault Ste. Marie ranked 92nd and 95th, respectively.

The teams were divided into four divisions of 40 teams each. All three EUP schools were in different divisions, and all three made the playoff round. The Instigators of Sault Ste. Marie qualified 16th in their division with a 7-5 record. They were chosen by Perry High School to be part of the fifth-seeded alliance. Their other teammate was Pontiac Academy for Excellence of Pontiac. They lost in the best-ofthree quarterfinals to the fourthseeded alliance, with a 1-2 record.

The Deceivers of Brimley also qualified 16th, posting a 6-6 record. The Lakers of Our Lady of the Lakes, Waterford, chose them for the fourth-seeded alliance. Their other teammate was IGNITION from Ignite Academy in Mt. Morris. Brimley’s alliance lost in the quarterfinal to the fifth-seed.

Rudyard qualified 13th with an 8- 4 record. As alliances were chosen, the Nerf Herders ended up as the captain of the eighth-seeded alliance. They chose I AM Robot from International Academy of Macomb and the Linc-Bots from Lincoln High School in Ypsilanti as their teammates. Their alliance lost to the top-seeded alliance in their division, who also went on to win the state championship. Rudyard was relegated to watching the scoreboard to see if their points would be enough to qualify them for the world finals. Coach Isiah Otten said he began to discuss the possibility with the parents on Friday, when Rudyard was ranked 61st.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” said Mr. Otten. “We knew we were close, but after we lost in the playoffs, we weren’t sure we would make it. When we weren’t dropping as much as we thought we would, we began to think we had a real chance to qualify.”

Teams that qualify for the world championship must inform FIRST representatives if they will accept the invitation before they leave the event. Teams who accept must pay a $5,000 registration fee, in addition to booking hotel rooms and paying for traveling expenses. Rudyard has a team of 30 students. They didn’t have long to decide.

“We thought we would have two days to talk about it, but then found out we only had a few hours before we had to accept,” said Mr. Otten.

Mr. Otten talked to the parents, called home to mentors, sponsors, and those who pledged support, and spoke with his own parents about fundraising ideas. They then had an hour-long meeting on a grass hill outside of the venue to discuss the pros and cons.

“I had a whiteboard and we started talking through it,” said Mr. Otten. “Some were voting to stay home and others were voting to go. Ultimately, we decided we should go.”

Mr. Otten said that going to the FIRST Championship would help them to recruit new members to the program and continue to build upon the foundation they have. In addition, this is the first time Rudyard has qualified for this event. Opportunities like this one are rare.

When Rudyard made the state finals, they had two weeks to raise $5,400. They met, and even exceeded that goal. To make it to St. Louis, their fundraising goal is $8,500. For the state competition, Michigan grants pay $1,000 of every team’s registration fee. There is no such assistance for teams that go to the national competition.

“We exceeded our goal last time, so we have a little bit of a head start,” said Mr. Otten.

They will be sharing a bus with the Petoskey team, who also qualified, to help cut down on cost, and many community members have pledged their support to help Rudyard get to St. Louis. An anonymous gift of $1,000 was given, as well as a $500 pledge from a couple who spent time with them in Sagi- naw and was impressed with the team. A pancake breakfast fundraiser for them in Sault Ste. Marie Saturday, April 22, raised approximately $700. The students acted as the wait staff. Proceeds from the Friday popcorn sales, which happen each week at Rudyard elementary and high school, were donated to the robotics team; $400 was the amount raised. At a school assembly on Monday morning, April 24, children from the elementary school presented money and posters that the classes made to the robotics team. As of Monday morning, they had raised $8,054, with more slated to come in.

“We’ve had an amazing response from so many people,” said Mr. Otten.

The FIRST Championship includes teams from all over the world. Each team that made the world championship had to ship their robots in crates to the event site. Once teams arrive on Wednesday, they will have just five hours to make adjustments or repairs. Teams must work fast, and smart. Qualification matches will take place Thursday and Friday, and playoffs will take place Saturday. Teams are put into divisions consisting of 75 teams. Rudyard will be competing in the Archimedes division at The Dome at America’s Center, the former home of the St. Louis Rams’ football team. The Nerf Herders will leave Wednesday, April 26, at 3 a.m. for the long journey to St. Louis. People interested in watching the competition live can visit https://www.firstchampionship.org/watch-live.

Members of Rudyard’s team include seniors Autumn Beaudoin, Rebecca Brood, James Emrich, Aaron Mills, and Joshua Schrovenwever; juniors Hannah Brood, Ryan Brown, Andrew Folkersma, Johnn Folkersma, Katrina Folkersma, Nina Hough, Elizabeth King, Sophia Kowalski, Larry LaPonsie, Destina Marra, Rebecca McClellan, Ashton McConnell, Caleb Mills, Carlos Staten, Sean Staricha, and Nick Zeeryp; sophomores Jayden Cozort, A.J. Ellison, Samantha Hall- Leonhardt, Jeremy Povey, Novi Price, Aubra Ross, Shawna Weaver, and Max Zeeryp, and freshman Katie Folkersma.

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