Error Code Xero gears up for competition season — and recruiting new members

After a strong showing in international competition this spring in St. Louis, Mo., West Linn and Wilsonville’s competitive high school robotics team, FIRST Team 1425 — Error Code Xero, is recruiting new members and starting to plan for another year of competition. Each winter, Error Code Xero designs a robot to meet a specific challenge and then joins with other high school robotics teams to pit their robots against each other in competition.

Right now, the team is meeting at Wilsonville High School’s cafe on Mondays and Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and actively looking for new recruits, no experience required, according to Kris Troha, one of the team’s lead mentors and a physics teacher at SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Robotics team leaders say the team welcomes new recruits with all levels of experience. Strategy leader Tori Bianchi, left, will be a junior at West Linn High School in the fall. Overall team leader Karen Harper will be a senior at Wilsonville High School.

“Anyone who is interested, as long as they are willing to learn — and to learn from their mistakes — and get in there, we want them,” Troha said. “The first year is a lot of learning the basics, just like any job.”

“After one year, you get your feet wet,” mentor and parent Marsha Steffen said.

“During summer and fall, we don’t have a competition. So it’s all about learning new stuff, things like computer science or making a circuit, that aren’t available at schools,” Troha said. “You don’t have to have any expertise.”

About a dozen students gathered at the high school on July 31 and quickly formed into their subteams, including software and strategy.

“If you come during our build season, this ramps up about fourfold,” Steffen said, referring to the period starting in January when the team receives its challenge and starts to build a robot for competition.

Two older students, team leaders Karen Harper and Tori Bianchi, reinforced the idea that the team was in its annual building phase and the message that new members of all experience levels were welcome.

“I don’t think anyone comes in here knowing anything,” Bianchi said. An incoming junior at West Linn High School, she is the leader of the strategy team.

Harper, the overall team leader and an incoming senior at WHS, said some students in the past had shown up lacking even basic mechanical knowledge, such as how to use a screwdriver, drill and wrenches.

“We had to teach them, ‘righty tighty, lefty loosey,’” Harper said. “We call this the off-season. It’s a learning time.”

New members are welcome to join the team throughout the summer and fall.

There isn’t a cutoff for joining the team, Troha said. “People who want the full experience of the season should try to get here by November.”

During the team’s build season, the team meets five days a week, including Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 3:30 or 4 p.m.

“That’s when the team is here,” Troha said, not when attendance by every member is required. “It really is flexible.”

He said no specific time commitment was required of members, although he said that during the build season, plans change rapidly from week to week, so members who attend infrequently may find it hard to keep up.

“If you commit more time, you’ll get a better learning experience,” he said.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: KATE HOOTS - Griffin Frysinger, an incoming freshman at WLHS, works on making a circuit at the robotic meeting on July 31.Griffin Frysinger, an incoming freshman at West Linn High School and a new member of the robotics team, was eager to learn. At the July 31 meeting, he practiced making a circuit, although he originally was interested in being on the software team.

“I thought I’d try everything,” he said. “I think I might like to do software things for a living.”

He definitely was thinking long term, anticipating that his robotics participation might bring the possibility of scholarship money and grants for college.

Like most clubs, the robotics team charges an activity fee, in this case, $200. The team receives financial support from a number of sponsors, including Xerox, Maxim Integrated and the city of Wilsonville, and supplements with fundraisers throughout the year. Students interested in participating should not let the activity fee stand in their way, Steffen said. The team will work with families to create a payment plan.

“No one cares who you are,” Bianchi said. “We get such a variety of people. ... They’re able to come here as a group and build something.”

High school students who have interest but not necessarily experience in technology — mechanical, electrical and computer systems — and business — marketing, corporate fundraising, visual design, game strategy and communication — are invited to join. 

“There’s room for all,” Bianchi said. “There’s a place for you and a place for everyone.”

Find more information about Error Code Xero on the Web at For information about team meetings, email Troha at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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