Noble BearBotics team heading to state competition

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The Noble BearBotics team placed in several categories during a regional competition hosted recently in Newcastle, including the First Place Think Award. Shown, from left, are: Front -- Alissa Morgan, A-ARON (robot), Cassidy Holman, Chloe Woodruff; Back -- Leamber Black, Ryan Webb, Haley Taffe, Allison Bond, Draydon Harris, Gage Nance, Colby Dirck and Mariah Seedorf. Not pictured are Chloe Martin and mentor Magan Hagy.

NOBLE — Noble BearBotics team members successfully competed in two regional competitions, qualifying them to advance to state competition. At a qualifying event in Mustang, the team placed 10th out of 22 teams. They also won the First Place Think Award for their engineering notebook, a collection of notes about the team, members' progress and fundraising efforts and the Third Place Control Award, commending their robot's ability to complete the mandated challenge on the competition field.

Coach Cheryl Dirck said in her four years as coach, she's never seen her team reach that far in this event, which she called grueling.

At a second state-qualifying event in Newcastle, the team was named the Winning Alliance Team, meaning they were the No. 1 team overall from among 21 participating teams. In addition, they again won the First Place Think Award. Embracing the culture of the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology program to show what it means to work as a cohesive team, Noble BearBotics brought home the Third Place Motivate Award.

For the first time in four years coaching, Dirck watched her team become the No. 1 team after a long day of robotic matches, and she was excited.

"Knowing they were already qualified for state competition, they still wanted to succeed in a higher rank to see how far the team would go," Dirck said. "Noble BearBotics, along with an alliance of another underdog team, came out as the Winning Alliance teams to beat the more experienced teams from the state of Oklahoma.

"This was truly an exciting moment for the students and coaches. The team went home with a big smile and big heart, knowing what they are capable of accomplishing at a competition."

The team is headed to the State Qualifying event Feb. 22-23 at Southwest Oklahoma State University in Weatherford to compete with 39 other teams during the First Tech Challenge State Competition. Three of the 40 teams will be accepted to compete at the world competition in April in Houston.

"After the two qualifiers this season, if our team members put their minds together and work well with other alliances, they have a greater chance of moving on to the world competition," Dirck said.

Two Noble High School seniors are head the BearBotics Documentation Team and are responsible for maintaining the engineering notebook, documenting everything the team does to build and ready the robot for competition.

Cassidy Holman is in charge of adding artistic elements to the notebook by drawing the robot at every stage of its development, including sketching an apparatus or two when needed. She adds sketches to help highlight and describe what her teammate, Allison Bond, had written in her job as scribe. Bond takes notes at every meeting and organizes them into a comprehensive document explaining what the team has done all year.

Holman said she is excited about going to state.

"I'm very excited. This is my second time going to state with this team," Holman said. "It's really big for us because we are a small team, in terms of our financials and community."

Pointing out that a large part of competition is a team's engineering notebook, Bond said part of her job is to document fundraisers the team hosts, including waiting tables at Freddy's Frozen Custard and sponsoring a four-day robotics summer camp to teach fourth- through sixth-graders how to form a team, build a simple robot and compete.

Bond said the team "definitely [has] the capability" of advancing past the state competition.

Another senior on the BearBotics team, Colby Dirck, is the head builder. He and Gage Nance drive the robot. This year's challenge is a bit different. A structure that looks like a lunar lander is placed in the playing field. The robot is attached to the side of the lander, where it is parked until competition begins and an arm lowers the robot onto the playing field. The robot has to be programmed to detach itself from the lander without the aid of a driver, which means extra coding for the BearBotics team.

Once on the playing field, to earn points, the robot has to push blocks and a relic into a given position on the board. The relic can be anything the team chooses, so the BearBotics team chose a bear.

Colby Dirck said he is looking forward to state.

"I think it's going to be another wonderful experience," Dirck said. "We're all excited, with some brand new members — this is the last year for some of us, including myself. We hope to advance to the national level and then on to the world competition."

Ryan Webb helps Dirck program the robot to respond to driver input. This will be Webb's second time to attend a state competition, too.

"It's pretty neat. I'm glad we got to go again for twice in five years," Webb said. "Hopefully we'll go to nationals; that's the goal, at least. If we do as well as we did in our last qualifiers, we should have a pretty good chance."

Alissa Morgan is a junior programmer. She said the team has to program the robot to use a camera to correctly identify a shape as being a cube or a sphere. After identifying the object, the robot should take appropriate action and move only cubes to the team's designated area to earn points.

This is also Morgan's second time to attend state.

"I think we're definitely going to try our best and come home with a couple of awards," Morgan said, "and we're going to try to go to world."

All of the hard work and excitement surrounding the team's success is dampened by the cost of attending the state qualifying meet. BearBotics members work to raise funds throughout the season, but going to state will cost the team an additional $1,800 above what they've raised.

To ease some of the financial pressure, Dirck is asking for donations to help offset costs for food, lodging and transportation. For more information, call coach Dirck at 642-9095.