Middle schoolers compete in FIRST Robotics at Alcona schools

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Local middle school robotics teams compete in a For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Tech Challenge scrimmage Saturday at Alcona Community Schools.

LINCOLN — Alcona Community Schools hosted a middle school For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Tech Challenge scrimmage on Saturday for local middle school students.

Twelve teams from Alcona Middle School, Thunder Bay Junior High School, and Oscoda Middle School competed in the scrimmage, playing the 2018-19 game, Rover Ruckus.

Rachel Somers, Alcona teacher and robotics coach, said all the teams built their robot in the past few months based on the Rover Ruckus game.

“All of them are new teams, except one that has competed at an event before, and they’re fulfilling new team grant requirements by being here and competing,” Somers said.

Hosting a 12-team event is small, Somers said, but it was the only event in Northeast Michigan for the teams. She said the teams would have had to go to Novi or Vassar to compete, so having a scrimmage in Northeast Michigan was nice for the teams and students.

“My hope is next winter to run some league competitions with Oscoda and Alpena and Tawas to get them ready for real qualifying competitions,” Somers said.

Alcona sixth-graders Garrett Somers and Jacob June said it took just over a month to build their robot. The robot already had a battery pack and frame, so they had to change most of the robot. They were both driving their robot during the scrimmage and said the hardest parts were the controls and turning.

“Turning is definitely the hardest because our robot turns so weird,” Garrett Somers said.

Out of the 12 teams competing, 10 were from Alcona. Rachel Somers said that was possible because a FIRST grant paid for all the robot kits and registration for as many teams as the school wanted.

“Even though we’re small, we’re still growing, and we can do big things,” Garrett Somers said.

“It’s something new to learn,” June said about robotics. “You get your hands-on learning, you’re doing some code, making programs, and it’s a challenge.”

Garrett Somers said the trial-and-error part of robotics is fun. He said the problem-solving process is a fun challenge.

“This is definitely fun because it’s more laid back,” Garrett Somers said.

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.

Contest winners

Below are the award winners from Saturday’s middle school For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Tech Challenge at Alcona Community Schools.

Judges Award: Alcona Team 15599, the Space Invaders

Motivate Award: Alcona Team 15601, the Purple People Eaters

Design Award: Alcona Team 15609, Driver X

Rockwell Collins Innovate Award: Alpena Team 16173, the Power Cats

Think Award: Alcona Team 13818, the alCODEa Tigers

The runner-up Alliance #3: Team Captain 15599: the Space Invaders, Team 15601: the Purple People Eaters, and Team 15605: ZBots

The winning Alliance #1: Team Captain 15901: the Oscoda Owlbots, Team 16173: the Alpena Power Cats, and Team 13818: the alCODEa Tigers

The Inspire Award: Team 15901, the Oscoda Owlbots