Kim Markham, a robot programmer at The Boeing Co., works part-time as coach and mentor of Auburn Riverside’s robotics team, which designed and engineered Hello World 5683. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Kim Markham, a robot programmer at The Boeing Co., works part-time as coach and mentor of Auburn Riverside’s robotics team, which designed and engineered Hello World 5683. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Robots invade Auburn in ‘sport for the mind’

Teams learn as they match wits, machines in showcase | PHOTOS

Fans jammed the grandstand as creatively-clad teams prepared to invade the spotlight stage at Auburn High School’s Bob Jones Gym last Saturday.

For combatants and their finely-tuned robots, it was March Madness, an intense mechanical competition in a spartan-like-arena atmosphere.

“It’s a sporting event for the mind,” said Kim Markham, coach of Auburn Riverside’s 15-member, first-year robotics team, which designed and engineered Hello World 5683. “This is our first competition, and every time we work out a little bit, we get a little bit better, so we are optimistic moving forward.”

Markham’s crew was among 34 teams from Washington and one from Anchorage, Alaska – the Nerds from the North – that battled for points, prestige and advancement at the two-day FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics competition. Top teams from the sanctioned event, which attracted more than 1,000 students, qualified for the Pacific Northwest FIRST Championship in Portland, Ore., April 5-7.

Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams composed of up to 28 students (grades 9-12) are challenged to raise funds, design a team brand and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against the competition. In match play, students drive robots to execute moves – such as grab, lift and place cubes on scales – while trying to outmaneuver other robots.

Professional mentors like Markham, a robot programmer for The Boeing Co., volunteer their time, or work part-time, to share their expertise to guide teams in circumstances designed to replicate real-world engineering and require problem-solving skills that take into account science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) principles.

“We enjoy it,” Markham said of the challenge. “There’s always glitches, but those are learning opportunities. We work through those, so every round we get a little better. … Being our first competition, our drivers haven’t had a lot of practice … and we had the ’bot built in six weeks … so there’s a lot to design and engineer.”

Hello World 5683 played defense, took some early lumps but persevered, winning four of its first 12 matches.

Two more seasoned robotics programs – Auburn High’s Team 3219 TREAD and Auburn Mountainview’s Team 2907 Lion Robotics – rose to the occasion last weekend. TREAD received the Gracious Professionalism Award, sponsored by Johnson & Johnson, and Lion Robotics was a district event winner.

For TREAD team member Alec Acosta-Vega, the challenge of being a part of ’bot 3219 called Pick and Flick, is a thrill.

“It’s a crazy experience for me,” said Acosta-Vega, a sophomore. “I did robotics through my middle school years, and being able to upgrade from little Lego robots to something big is crazy. I love being on it. I would rather do nothing else with my time than work on my robot.”

The robotics showdown brings together students of many ethnic and educational backgrounds for a common mission – to survive, learn something new and advance.

“It’s amazing … being on a team with different languages and coming from different nations,” said Mariama Kante, a junior at Nathan Hale High School and a member of the Seattle World School robotics team who is originally from Senegal, West Africa. “When we work, we work together. When we laugh, we laugh together. When we cry, we cry together.”

Auburn Mountainview High School hosts a FIRST Robotics competition on March 30-31.

Learn more at firstwa.org.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@auburn-reporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.auburn-reporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

Instructor Todd Fondy and student Zach Jay of Auburn Mountainview’s Team 2907 Lion Robotics inspect their robot between matches. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Instructor Todd Fondy and student Zach Jay of Auburn Mountainview’s Team 2907 Lion Robotics inspect their robot between matches. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Auburn High’s Team 3219 TREAD robot tosses a cube onto the scales during a match. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Auburn High’s Team 3219 TREAD robot tosses a cube onto the scales during a match. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Auburn TREAD team mentor and coach Chris Zawislak soaks in conversation between rounds. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Auburn TREAD team mentor and coach Chris Zawislak soaks in conversation between rounds. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

The arena at Bob Jones Gym begins more match play. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

The arena at Bob Jones Gym begins more match play. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

More in News

Screenshot from Gov. Jay Inslee’s press conference on Aug. 5, 2020.
Inslee says schools in virus hot spots should stay closed

King County among high-risk counties; several school districts will have remote learning in the fall.

File photo
Road rager points gun at gas station | Auburn police blotter

Auburn Police responded to the following calls for service, among many others,… Continue reading

Courtesy photo
Race car vs. golf cart collision | Fire blotter

Between July 27 and Aug. 2, the Valley Regional Fire Authority responded… Continue reading

King County Election headquarters in Renton on Aug. 4 for the primary election. Haley Ausbun/staff photo
Inslee and Culp lead governor race; incumbent Dems ahead for Congress | Statewide results

Early results for governor, state schools chief, attorney general and more.

Courtesy of Mountain View Fire and Rescue
Mountain View Fire and Rescue levy is passing

Service area includes unincorporated King County near the cities of Auburn, Enumclaw and Kent.

Democrats dominate King County legislative races | Election results

Here are the latest results for King County legislative candidates in the… Continue reading

Primary election 2020: Who will emerge as Inslee’s challenger?

Voting ends Tuesday in an election without big rallies and fund-raisers and face-to-face debates

Sex ed, local control at heart of race for WA state schools chief

Incumbent Chris Reykdal faces five foes who argue he’s pushing too many state policies on school districts.

Most Read