Team raising funds to get to St. Louis

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Team 1425 members hustle their robot onto the field of play earlier this spring at the Portland Regional at Memorial Coliseum. For a few fleeting minutes, the dream was over.

The West Linn-Wilsonville FIRST robotics team had fallen short at the March 23 Central Washington Regional, and a third consecutive trip to the World Championships in St. Louis was no longer possible.

That was how it seemed, anyway, to the devastated students on the team. But suddenly the judges reconvened, and after 10 to 15 minutes they announced that there had been a mistake. A point for West Linn-Wilsonville hadn’t been counted, and it proved to be the game changer in the competition. The ruling was reversed, and as quickly as the dream had died 15 minutes earlier, now it was a reality.

“It was,” said student team leader Kelsey Underwood, “an emotional roller coaster.”

Odd as the circumstances may have been, the team is pleased with its status now — planning and fundraising for a costly trip to St. Louis starting April 25, rather than juggling “what if” scenarios. Though a portion of the $30,000 needed to travel will come from an array of sponsors — including Xerox and the city of Wilsonville — the team still must raise between $10,000 and $15,000 on its own.

Students will be collecting soda cans from neighborhoods in both West Linn and Wilsonville, and the team will also hold a car wash in the parking lot of Jay Puppo-State Farm Insurance on April 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Donation canisters have been placed in the checkout areas at a number of local stores, and direct contributions can also be made through the team’s website:

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: JOSH KULLA - Team 1425 drive team members operate their robot during a heat last month at the Portland Regional at Memorial Coliseum.

This year, the team is confident that the fundraising will be worth the trouble.

“We actually feel like we have a better robot and can place higher up,” team leadership mentor Marsha Steffen said. “At worlds, the level of competition changes significantly over regionals. You have to have a pretty ‘wow’ robot, and we feel like we have a pretty good one.”

Indeed, the West Linn-Wilsonville robot weighs in at 105 pounds and stands 50 inches tall. Designed to launch Frisbees into goals as part of this year’s “Ultimate Ascent” game, the robot is capable of shooting up to 54 feet.

“Ultimate Ascent” pits two “alliances” of three robots each against each other in a race to score as many goals as possible in just over two minutes.

“This year it has a lot more to do with alliance,” Underwood said. “Last year it was more stand alone.”

For Underwood, a senior at Wilsonville High School, a trip to the world championships is enticing not only for the spirit of competition, but also discovery.

“It’s super exciting,” Underwood said. “People come from all over the place, just to see all the different robot designs.”

But the team certainly wants to improve on its showing last year, and Underwood is aiming to place at least in the upper half of the 250 teams.

“If there’s other robots that are better than us, congrats,” Underwood said. “I just hope we perform to full capabilities.”

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Team 1425 is shown here in Ellensburg, Wash., after winning the Ellensburg Regional.

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