Hillman Pyrobots Team has successful first season

ALPENA — The Hillman Jr./Sr. High School FIRST Robotics team — the Hillman Pyrobots — had a successful first season of robotics. The team was one of 40 teams that competed in last week’s Bots on the Bay Alpena District Competition at Alpena High School. The team had the goal of reaching the elimination round and succeeded in accomplishing it.

“We ended up getting selected with the second alliance so we were very excited about that,” teacher and coach Jesse Pattison said. “It came down to one of the last picks but we were just elated when we got picked. We ended up being with a great group. They worked with us to make some changes to our robot.”

Pattison said things didn’t go the way they wanted, but the team had a great experience in the elimination round.

“It’s a whole different level than the qualification matches, but it’s going to be a great experience for the kids going into next year because now they know what to expect going into the elimination round,” he said.

The team was grouped with the Red Alliance team of Team 6493, Red Steel from Great Lakes Bay Early College and Team 3606, the Cyber Coyotes from Reed City High School for the playoff matches.

“I think it went really well,” sophomore Anthony Reynolds said of the team’s performance at the Alpena competition. “We ran our bot really well and we had a good experience. We got to spend a lot of time talking to other teams so that was really nice to be able to spread out and have that experience.”

Reynolds said the team played really good matches and the drive team got beter as the competition went.

Senior Wyatt Libby said both the drivers and human players performed great and the scout team helped the team perform better during the competition.

“We improved a lot since our first competition,” Libby said. “Still being rookies, the experience isn’t quite there yet, but I think this competition was a very valuable experience for going forward.”

At the Gaylord competition in March, the Pyrobots won the Highest Rookie Seed Award and the Rookie All-Star Award. Due to winning the Rookie All-Star Award, the team is going to the state competition this weekend to interview for the state award.

“We have the opportunity to go down to Saginaw,” Pattison said. “We’re going to go down and watch the state competition, which we’re excited to see a lot of those robots compete down there.”

The team won the Gracious Professionalism Award last week in Alpena. The Gracious Professionalism Award celebrates outstanding demonstration of FIRST core values such as gracious professionalism by working together both on and off the playing field.

“That really means a lot to us because that’s one of the things that FIRST is truly about,” Pattison said. “It’s about respecting your opponents, respecting your teammates, respecting everyone around you, and treating everybody with respect and that’s one thing that I really saw from my team in this competition and being able to willingly help other teams.”

Libby said the Gracious Professionalism Award is great and means a lot to the team.

“The award is really about embodying the values of FIRST as a whole, supporting other teams in the area and being professional while also being nice and helpful to everyone,” Libby said. “I think that really gives a good reflection of how our team is and how we help out and play at competitions.”

Pattison said team members were working with other teams in the pits and seeing what they could do to help succeed in the matches.

“The entire team just did a phenomenal job,” he said. “We set our goal on the day of the kickoff to build a simple and very effective robot and we wanted to be good at one thing and if we got good at one thing and we had time, we were going to expand upon that.”

Pattison said the team had an idea on kickoff day in January of what the team wanted to build and the team succeeded in building exactly what they had envisioned.

“It worked even better than what we expected it to be,” he said.

One thing Pattison said he noticed with his team during the robotics season is that they were going around, looking at other teams were doing and getting ideas for their robot.

“At the beginning of the season, they wouldn’t have known what those components were and what those parts were and now they’re talking about what we can integrate into their robot and how we can integrate it into future robots depending on what the competitions are,” Pattison said. “It’s really neat both as a coach and as a classroom teacher seeing how much my team members have learned and I know with looking at what I’ve learned, if they’ve learned as much as I’ve learned then it’s awesome.”

Going forward, the Hillman Pyrobots are excited for what the future of FIRST Robotics at Hillman is going to be like.

“I hope we get a lot more kids involved. This FIRST Robotics is such a phenomenal program,” Pattison said. “The growth that you see out of students, not just mechanical or electrical or whatever it might be, but just the growth I’ve seen and leadership and the ability to go out and talk to judges, other coaches or other team members or the example of being in the heat of competition and being able to keep the composure.”

Pattison said those are real world skills that are used in the workplace and the experience students will get from FIRST can set them up for a very successful career down the road.

The team is going to do community outreach in the upcoming months to try and get younger students interested and involved with robotics.

“We’re also going to focus a lot on fundraising and getting sponsorships for our team so we can have a higher budget and accommodate more numbers,” Libby said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.