Local teams finish season strong with state robotics competition

By Candy Allan and Meghan Gunther-Haas, Pioneer Staff Writers

Morley Stanwood’s climbs during a district competition at Traverse City Central High School. After competing in two district events, the team earned a spot in the Michigan State Championships on Saturday at Saginaw Valley State University. (Pioneer file photos)

SAGINAW — Two area high school teams earned the opportunity to extend their robotics season this year. Both Reed City High School and Morley Stanwood High School sent students to the FIRST Robotics Michigan State Championship event at Saginaw Valley State University.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) championship contest took place Thursday through Saturday, with the 160 participating teams competing in four divisions.

This was a record-setting year for the Morley Stanwood robotics team. Not only did they earn their way into the playoffs of their first regular-season match — a first in team history — they did so again in their second and final regular-season contest. Team members learned early last week they also had earned the right to compete in the state championship, also a first in team history.

At the state meet, the Mohawks ended ranked 26th of the 40 teams in the Ford Division.

“This was the best competition we’ve faced all year,” said coach Dave Nelson. “We had a robot that did the best we could do, and we did our best with the alliances we had. We cooperated well with other teams. It’s all about teamwork when the alliances are working together.

“Our kids did really well down there. They learned a lot, learned what we need to do and got to experience the excitement of being there.”

The Morley Stanwood robotics team doubled in size this year compared to last, Nelson said, and he expects the group will continue to grow, enabling the students to become more competitive.

“Some groups have spirit groups that travel with them,” he said. “If we had a bigger marketing team, we could get more of our stuff out there and have students able to contact local businesses to increase our support.

“I want to thank AutoCast of Grand Rapids and the two mentors we have from there — they did a lot of our manufacturing and we appreciate that. I also want to give a shout out to Reed City, who won the Chairman’s Award. They have to do a lot of work to win that — we’re not there yet to to try to get that award — and I know they had to do really well to earn it.”

Reed City’s Stephen Shewan puts the finishing touches on the team’s robot before action during a district event this season. After competing in the state championships this weekend, the team is looking forward to applying what they have learned when the next season starts.

The Chairman’s Award “honors the team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of FIRST,” according to the FIRST website. The award is earned by one team in each district and is an automatic ticket to the next level of the competition.

To earn this award, the Reed City Cyber Coyotes wrote an essay and gave a presentation about their work and their peers.

“Our Chairman Award committee felt really good about their interview,” coach Brad Smith said about the team’s efforts to earn the award at the state event.

Overall, the Cyber Coyotes ranked 29th out of 40 teams in the Consumers Energy Division.

“We did fairly well,” Smith said. “This was a very interesting experience. It was a good learning experience. We saw how other teams perform and what we are up against.”

Smith and his students are looking forward to applying what they learned through this year and the state competition when the next season rolls around, including marketing their team.

“We have an idea of how we want to pursue all the things that go into making a good robotics program next year,” he said. “Next year, we are going to set our sights on the worlds competition and commit to getting there.”

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