Windsor High School robotics program on the upswing |

Windsor High School robotics program on the upswing

T.M. Fasano

The two Windsor High School robotics teams are coming off their best year ever, and things are looking up for the future of the program.

The Gatekeepers and the RoboWizards 2.0 competed at the Colorado State First Tech Challenge Robotics Championship on Feb. 22 at Resurrection Christian High School n Loveland, and they made quite an impression.

The RoboWizards 2.0 won the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award at the state tournament. The award recognizes teams that not only think outside the box, but also have the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life. It was given to the team that had the most innovative and creative robot design solution to any or all specific field elements or components in the FTC game.

Before the state competition, both robotics teams competed in the Western Slope FTC Qualifier in Glenwood Springs in January in order to secure positions at the Colorado FTC Championship Tournament.

The RoboWizards 2.0 took first place and the Gatekeepers placed second at that tournament. The RoboWizards 2.0 also brought home the Inspire Award.

Students met after school to work on their robots, and have been designing, building, tearing apart and rebuilding their robots since October. The students also hosted the Northern Colorado FTC Qualifier in January, which featured more than 20 teams competing to win their positions to the state tournament.

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The students in the robotics program are Parker Cline, Dalton Ellis, William Purcelley, Gerrad Reynolds, Mitch Watson, Daniel Schmerge, Bishop Dickerson, Jacob Aas, David Watson and Matthew Kesler. Head coach Eric Aas and faculty sponsor Jonah Kliewer, a physics and electronics teacher at the high school, lead the program.

This is third year for the robotics program at the high school, and has students from ninth-graders through seniors. Eric Aas said it was the first year of it being an official school-sponsored organization where it falls under the Windsor High School Booster Club.

Eric Aas said corporate sponsorship from OtterCares ($3,200 grant) and local sponsorship from the Windsor Kiwanis Club ($600) and the Windsor Optimist Club ($150) was a big boost for the program. He also pointed out that local businesses Snaptron, Pelican Jo's Pizzeria and Gregory Electric have also helped out the program.

The program also had its own working space this year, a modular behind the high school that enabled the teams to remain set up without having to tear down its projects.

Rebecca Dickerson, a parent who assists the program and whose son, Bishop, is a junior on the RoboWizards 2.0 team, said it's a fantastic program.

"The kids learn so much in the engineering aspects of it and what is required of them to actually compete. They have to fill out an engineering notebook and community service is strongly encouraged," she said. "They have to do a lot in order to make it all come together. The kids have to create a robot from scratch. The best thing that LEGO League really promotes is gracious professionalism and the respect for everybody else around you. That is something we kind of tend to not promote as much in our society anymore, and the fact that this truly does enforce that I think is absolutely incredible."

Eric Aas, an engineer for Motorola, said it was a fun year for the teams, and he looks forward to a bright future.

"There was good energy in the group, and they definitely put a lot of time in," Aas said. "We'll be back again with at least two teams next year."

Bishop Dickerson, 16, is a three-year veteran who also participated for three years in robotics at Windsor Middle School.

"I really like the teamwork side of it. We all get to work as a team to build a robot that can actually accomplish a task," he said. "We get to do something that could actually apply to real life. It's really challenging."

The Gatekeepers built a scooping robot that picked up cubes, while RoboWizards 2.0 built a block-throwing robot.

"It was really challenging but really fun to solve and to get the accuracy down," Bishop said.

He said it was apparent that the program received a lot more support from the school this year.

"This year the school gave us a modular. We had room to spread out and plan," he said. "We had white boards to draw on. The principal came in a few times to see what we were working on. The student council took pictures of us for the yearbook. It was a noticeable difference."

Dickerson said the program is really fun for those students who like engineering and like solving fun, but challenging, problems.

"It's really good for people who want to get into teamwork and to work with others to solve a bigger problem," he said. "Each year more and more people join with the fascination of robotics and engineering."

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