Hundreds of robots invaded Iowa this week — including three made in San Luis Obispo County.
The Titan Robotics Club, from Nipomo and Central Coast New Tech high schools, traveled to Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Monday to compete in the weeklong CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship, which pits elementary, middle school and high school teams against each other in a yearly game developed by VEX Robotics.
"This national competition brings teams from all across the U.S. together in an environment where ideas can be shared and reputations established," club adviser Greg Gracia said. "We are able to meet in cooperation with middle and high school students from all over the United States with the same goals and help each other expand our potential."
This year, the club developed three qualifying robots to play the game. Called Sky Rise, it consists of stacking red and blue open-face cubes and yellow pylons to score points. Four robots, paired into two "alliances," or teams, compete to see who can gain the most points during a one-minute programmed period, followed by 45 seconds of driver-controlled play.
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The national competition will cap off a good year for the Titan Robotics Club. Team robots made it to finals matches at each of the seven tournaments the club competed at since the start of the school year, with several winning awards for design and general excellence.
But it hasn't been an entirely smooth road for the team.
After failing to make it into the semifinal rounds at two state competitions last month, the team narrowly missed out on qualifying for the VEX Robotics Worlds Championship to be held April 15 in Louisville, Ky.
"It was disappointing, of course, but we decided because of that, that they would go to the nationals and try for that championship title instead," Gracia said.
In the weeks since the state championships, the Titan Robotics Club has focused all of its attention on performing well at nationals.
Late last week, the team was scrambling to finish any last-minute construction and programming before Gracia boxed up the robots for the competition.
Shouts and laughs mixed with the sounds of mechanical whirring and clicking throughout the classroom at Nipomo High School as the students tinkered with and tested out the robots in a 12-by-12 foot playfield filled with this year's game supplies.
Though one robot was still incomplete an hour before they needed to be packaged, club members were confident that they would perform well at this week's competition.
"Nipomo High School is like the UCLA of California teams," club vice president George Faour joked. "Maybe not quite, but we've been doing this for a while. We know what we're doing."
The Titan team is scheduled to compete in qualifying rounds Wednesday, and if any of its robots make the cut, they could move on to the finals rounds Thursday. A live feed of the competition is available online at http://create-found.org/WebCast.php.