Back Country Robotics team breaks world record

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Photo courtesy of Josh Anderson

AHS robotic teams posing at States. From left to right: Samuel Vessey, Matilda (Tilly) Swanson, Storey Balko, Spencer Perley, Gavin Heil, Andrew Sebolt, Alex Appleby, Tatum Johnson, Alex Martin, Zack Small, Riley Dunn, Jack Fox, and Kyle Doolan.

By Ava Cherry, Aspen High School

All three of Aspen High School’s Robotics teams, Black Forest, The Robo-Yetis and Back Country Robotics, competed in states on February 8th. The Black Forest Robotics team finished the competition with a bang by qualifying for the Worlds Competition in Houston and setting a new world record by scoring 149 points in the robot game.

Robotics competitions are far more holistic than that of other sports. At the average robotics competition, 20 to 30 teams compete. To begin, teams must turn in their engineering notebook, which includes their daily progress, community outreach, and the engineering and code of the robot. Shortly after, each team has a 15-minute interview about their notebook, as well as an inspection of their robot. Afterward, a series of robot game qualification matches take place.

Whoever wins the final, is declared the winner of the robot game. Winning the robot game is one way to qualify for states, another way to qualify is to win certain awards. The most significant award is the inspire award, which means a team is doing well in all categories, including their business plan, community outreach, and their robot.

Josh Anderson, the coach of all three robotics teams spoke on behalf of the teams’ goals before the state competition.

“Our other two teams [Backcountry Robotics and the Yetis] goal was to get to states, so they should feel really good about what they’ve achieved,” Anderson said.

Robotics requires a lot of strategy and planning. Tatum Johnson, AHS junior and captain of Backcountry robotics, has overseen the team’s main approach to the robot game, which involves collaborating with other teams.

“Our strategy this year [is] to be the robot to get the blocks [stones] and give them to the other team, and then that team stacks [them]. Instead of having both robots do the same thing, you working together to get the most points possible,” Johnson said before the state competition.

Black Forest, perhaps the most competitive of AHS’ robotics teams, aimed to qualify for worlds and achieved this goal.

“It’s very challenging to qualify for worlds. In Colorado, there are some really good teams, and there are only three spots,” Anderson said.

While other teams may not hope to qualify for worlds, they are still driven to receive awards and place highly at the competition.

“I think if we work hard and get everything done in a timely manner, we have a good shot at some of the awards for sure,” Johnson said

At the Colorado state Competition, all teams surpassed their goals. The Black Forest Won the Robot game and earned second place Design Award as well as the third-place Control Award. The Robo-Yetis placed 13th overall, and their captain, Tilly Swanson, is one of three finalists for Colorado’s Dean’s List Award, an award given to someone nominated by their team who demonstrates leadership. Backcountry Robotics placed 16th and received the third-place Collins Aerospace Innovate Award.

Both Black Forest and Tilly Swanson will attend the Worlds Competition in Houston this April. Black Forest will compete against 150 of the worlds’ best robotics teams. At worlds, Swanson will find out if she is the recipient of the Dean’s List Award.

The success of AHS’ robotics teams comes as no surprise. Samuel Vessey, a member of the Yetis, spoke on behalf of Aspen Robotics’ established reputation.

“A few years ago, it was rare for a robotics team from Aspen to make states, but now we’ve made a name for ourselves, and we are expected to make states. But, we have not taken it for granted,” Vesey commented.

This story was originally published on The Skier Scribbler on February 13, 2020.