Bring on the Worlds

The full team poses at their station before the competition begins in Anchorage. From left are: assistant coach Greg Clem, Danny Brady, Shane Sims, Jessica Whitehead, Dawson Clem, Madison Cox, coach Mary Thole, CJ Dormido, and Micah Cook. Right, team members celebrate with their state champions trophy. Courtesy of Arlene Efergan

Skagway robotics team champs of Alaska

High robot mission score boosts team

By JEFF BRADY

Team Arthridroids from Skagway School is on a robotics roll.
Following a long holiday break after winning the Southeast region last month, and after just a few days of practice, the team cruised into Anchorage last weekend and didn’t miss a beat, bringing home the First LEGO League (FLL) Alaska state championship.
It wasn’t easy, as they went up against 52 teams from all over the state, but the seven students displayed “incredible teamwork,” said coach Mary Thole, and scored high in every category.
They benefitted from being able to do their Senior Solutions project presentation on arthritis first thing in the morning, because not long afterwards one of the students became sick with a stomach bug and missed the rest of the day-long competition.
Thole said the other students were able to pull it together, doing especially well in the core values segment and robot missions.

The team presents its champion project on arthritis before the entire assembly just prior to the awards announcements. Arlen Efergan

Before another set of judges, the team is given a core values task to complete. It was their favorite part of the day, next to winning, team members said.
They were presented with two cups – one empty and one filled with water – and they had to get water from one cup to another without using their hands. It took longer than they had hoped, but with all members of the team playing a part, they cut tape and string and attached it to two parts of the water-filled cup, then carefully lifted it and poured the water into the other cup.
Later they found out they were one of the few teams to pull it off, and other teams had just one person on the team solve the problem.
“On our team, each person had a job,” Thole said.
They next moved on to the robot design segment, where they explained how their robot, “Ready Tready,” worked its missions. But the board they were on was “an ocean of bubbles,” said one student, and few missions worked well.
They came away discouraged, but the story was much different when they took “Ready Tready” into the arena pit at the S. Anchorage High School gym.

Top Jessica Whitehead pushes the program button on robot "Ready Tready" to start a mission. Bottom Danny Brady signs the judge's form at the end of a successful mission, in which the robot scored 350 points, fourth best among 52 teams competing. Arlene Efergan

Going head-to-head with other teams, and before screaming fans, they scored 200 in the first round, 325 in the second round, and 350 in the final round. On the final mission, the robot twice was lined up perfectly to climb up and balance on a ramp without tipping, scoring the maximum points. They were short of the tourney’s top score of 400 by an Anchorage team, but worthy of fourth place in robot missions. The high score, combined with everything else they had done during the day, put them in the running for the overall title.
The first state award for the team went to assistant coach Greg Clem for the Volunteer of the Year. In addition to helping out at team practices all season long, he ran seven practice tables at State for all the teams, only taking breaks to run watch Skagway’s missions.
When their name was announced for the State Championship Award, the Skagway kids rushed the floor.
“We screamed and went through the high five line and almost crashed into the judges,” said Shane Sims, who was joined by Danny Brady, Dawson Clem, Madison Cox, CJ Dormido, and Jessica Whitehead.

Members of Team Arthridroids arrive back in Skagway with their Alaska Champions trophy. Jeff Brady

The students called teammate Micah Cook, who was feeling much better by late afternoon, and he was able to join them for the team celebration dinner at Red Robin.
Now the team’s focus turns to St. Louis and the FLL World Festival in late April. This will be the third Skagway team to qualify for the event in four years, but it also comes with a fund-raising challenge.
“We’re excited that we get to go to worlds, but we need to write a lot of letters for support,” said Cox.