Local teams score big in world robotics contest
Hot Wired Robotics wins top prize and Batteries in Black notch an Oregon first
Two local robotics teams took last weekend's FIRST Tech Challenge World Championships by storm, adding to Beaverton's growing national reputation for science and technology education.
Hot Wired Robotics, a team featuring students from Westview High School and other area schools, became the first Oregon team ever to capture the first-place Inspire Award, considered the FTC tournament's highest honor.
"It was a really mind-blowing experience for me," said Justin Bao, a Westview sophomore on the team. "I was really thankful they gave us that huge honor."
"It was pretty unbelievable," said Varun Gopinatth, a Westview senior. "We didn't really think we had a chance at it."
The national championships brought 128 top teams from 16 countries to St. Louis.
Cathy Swider, an Oregonian who volunteered at the event, noted that the world championships already brought together only the cream of the crop from among 4,689 robotics teams worldwide, and Hot Wired was the only one to claim the "ultimate prize."
"They were by far the most impressive team in the world," said Swider, who works with the Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program (ORTOP). "It blows your mind, doesn't it?"
The award, given Saturday at the close of the four-day competition, partly honored the teenagers' technical prowess in designing and fabricating their robot.
But it also honored their multiple efforts outside of the competitive arena to share knowledge and equipment with other teams in Oregon as well as helping out at Idaho's fledgling FIRST Tech Challenge state competition just a week before competing in Oregon's championships, said Advaith Nair, a Westview freshman.
Hot Wired is used to being near the top. Two years ago, they captained the winning alliance to the top of the head-to-head robotics competitions that take place during the world championships.
They almost did it again this year, as Hot Wired and its alliance teams from California and Alaska made it to the final round of head-to-head robot contests but ultimately fell one match short of winning it all.
In the rounds along the way, Hot Wired and its partners broke three world records in the simulated mountain rescue dubbed RES-Q, said Sunset High School sophomore Rahul Reddy, a driver for the team.
Meanwhile the Batteries in Black, a Washington County 4-H team with Beaverton-area residents that had placed ahead of Hot Wired in the Oregon championships earlier this year, won another of the world competition's big prizes by placing first in the Motivate category. The award celebrates team-building, spirit and enthusiasm.
Batteries in Black also survived deep into the robotics competition before Hot Wired's alliance eliminated them from the RES-Q contests, which simulate mountain rescues.
Not only that, but Batteries in Black team member Anshuman Radhakrishnan was one of just 10 FIRST Tech Challenge students in North America named as FIRST Deans List Winner, which recognizes leadership and dedication.
Radhakrishnan, a junior at Westview, is the first Oregonian honored with a spot on the Dean's List.
He not only contributed to his own team's success but also organized its outreach work to other student groups in Oregon and across the globe, according to Bruce Schafer, executive director of ORTOP.
The Beaverton-based nonprofit organization coordinates Oregon's FIRST Tech Challenge program, which is among the better programs across the U.S.
The robotics competitions help young team members build technical and other skills related to the so-called STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields, where many of the young team members expect to work after college.
Gopinatth, the Westview senior, plans to study biomedical engineering at Oregon State University next year.
He said the experience with Hot Wired "has really opened my eyes as to what you can do with a career in STEM."
By Eric Apalategui
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