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GBHS Robotics Club tackles first tournament
The Great Bend High School Robotics team, accompanied by two middle school observers, competed in their first ever tournament this past week in St. John. Team members are, front row: Mayra Ramirez, club president and designer; Amy To, driver; Ana Alvarez, programmer; back row: Sawyer Stoskopf, eighth-grade; Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade; Justin Owen, logistics.

The excitement was electric as Great Bend Robotics Club members prepared for their first competition, the VEX Turning Point Robotics Tournament held in St. John on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The Great Bend High School team competed against more than 25 teams from eight school districts. 

The teams use robots from VEX Robotics. While each team gets exactly the same robot pieces, the design and programing are entirely up to the individual teams. Coached by Jake Hofflinger (GBHS) and Amber Lucchesi (GBMS), students began designing their robot last September and have been working diligently after school since the beginning of the year to prepare for this inaugural tournament. Working within a 12’x12’ playing area, the robots have to work autonomously (by themselves) for the first 15 seconds of a round then the driver takes over for the remaining 1:45 seconds. 

“In the fast-paced tournament format, the kids were able to score and overcame some of their programing errors,” said Hofflinger. “It was impressive to watch them expose design flaws and come up with alternative programing on the fly.” 

“Sometimes you see that your design is not going to work,” said Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade club member who accompanied the high school team for research. “You just have to start over. You can’t get too attached to a design idea.”

While the Great Bend team placed 21 in the tournament, their sights are already set on their next opportunity to compete. “I am happy and surprised with how we did today,” said Mayra Ramirez, club president. “We did not have time to practice before we competed at the venue, but the months of preparation kept us competitive.”

A next step for the Great Bend Robotics Club is to identify a corporate partner/sponsor to enhance the technology available to the middle school and high school students. “Access to better equipment would make the team more competitive at the tournaments, in addition to the robust skills they’ll gain using the technology,” said Hofflinger. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or sponsorship opportunities is invited to contact Jake Hofflinger, GBHS technology teacher and robotics coach.

For more about the tournament, see  “High School Robotics: St. John - Hudson host first gathering,” in the Jan. 31 Great Bend Tribune.

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With the team behind her to observe, Amy To, team driver, watches the GBHS robot operate autonomously during a round at the VEX Turning Point Robotics Tournament. Robots score points for completing tasks such as picking up round discs, catapulting balls, or turning flags to name a few. After the autonomous portion of the round, the driver will take the controls in an attempt to earn additional points.