Robotics team 525 qualifies for Worlds

This past weekend Robotics team 525, also known as the SWART DOGS, qualified for the championships in Detroit after a robotics competition in South Dakota. At the championship competition, the team will travel to compete against other robotics teams across the world.

The SWART DOGS have qualified for nationals every year since 2008, 2017 being the first year since that they did not qualify.

Senior and drive team coach Molly Hensing said, “In 2016, half of our team was seniors, so in 2017 it was definitely a rebuilding and learning year for all the new students we had, as well as team leaders. This year our team has a lot more knowledge on what not to do and things we need to improve on from last year.”

Team 525 was established in 1999 by physics teacher Kenton Swartley. From there the team has won many titles and has been fulfilling its mission to promote STEM in the Cedar Valley.

“We will collaborate as a team to shape the future of our students and inspire others by providing opportunities to learn, create and compete while guided by the principles of gracious professionalism” the team’s mission statement on its website.

This year the team is composed of 38 students, each one taking an important role in the competition, building and background aspects of the team.

Swartley said, “We have a drive team, which includes two students that drive the robot, and a coach, a human player who interacts with the robot, a technician and lots of students in the stands scouting. That is really important, so you can know what other teams robots are doing. One, so you can see other teams’ match strategies, and two, making sure you can pick the best teams for your alliance.”

The release of the challenge for this year’s contest was on Jan. 1, and from there the team has six weeks to plan and design a robot. After that period, the team bags up its robot, taking it to competitions across the country.

“This year the game is called ‘Power Up,’ and it is themed after old video games,” Swartley said. “The teams have milk crates with a yellow cover, and the robots have to pick those up and deposit them into a teeter totter mechanism. It is race with the other alliance of who can get more cubes on their end and tilt in in their direction.”

The teams earn points based on each second that the teeter totter is in their direction. The team with the most points wins and can form an alliance with two other teams to increase its score. The top team of the alliance will receive the title.

At the world championships, the team will compete against over 400 teams for a world title.

“They take all the teams and split them into six divisions. Each division is about the size of a small regionals, which is about 70 teams,” Swartley said. “Each division has its own competition, and at the end of the event, the division has a playoff to determine their division winner. Each division winner is an alliance of three teams.”

With so many robotic teams competing, the SWART DOGS have hopes of improvement and work ethic playing a part of their success on such a large scale.

“In the championships, the furthest we have gone is the semi finals of a division,” Swartley said. “We’d like to make it further.”

“I think overall the team goal is to do the best we can,” Hensing said. “We’ve improved a lot since last year, and I think everyone on the team is hoping that work will pay off by making it far in the competition.”

The team has had many successes over the years, which can be shown in the number of blue banners lining their shop.

“You get awarded a blue banner for every regional championship and chairman award you receive. Another way is if a mentor gets a Woodie Flowers award. We ought to get them hung up in the gym, but we like to keep them for ourselves,” Swartley said with a laugh.

The SWARTdogs will be competing at the Iowa Regional competition at the McLeod center on March 22-24. There will be 61 teams attending, and it will be the last competition before the team is sent off to compete at the world championship competition.

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