For the second year, Bit by Bit 4-H #3784 FIRST robotics team won the regional competition held March 1 and 2 at Hale Arena in Kansas City. They advanced to worldwide competition, which will take place April 25-28 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
This year's challenge was named "Rebound Rumble," and included "a lot of matches and a lot of drama," according to Peggy Painter, Bit by Bit 4-H robotics program director. The competition was a cross between a basketball game and an obstacle course.
"The robots slammed into each other while trying to block," Painter said. "Other robots tumbled off bridges when their drivers miscalculated. Fortunately, our robot was built with steel and bullet-proof Lexan shields to protect the delicate electronics inside."
The competition involved 64 teams, 24 of which advanced to the quarterfinals. Points were earned by robots balancing on a teeter-totter or by making baskets.
"We received a box of parts," said Ashley Painter. "There were motors, wiring and metal pieces. Our first job was to organize those parts into categories."
"It was the exact same kit that every other team received," added Jordan Painter. "We all started on a level playing field. Each team was allowed $3,500 in add-ons. Our team used about $1,500."
Members of the Bit by Bit team had six weeks to design, build and program the robot.
"Other teams had a dedicated area where they could work on their robots," said Ashley. "Our team used the community room at the Marionville Library. That meant we had to unpack and pack up the project every meeting."
"It was like visiting the zoo," added Jordan. "People would drop by, ask questions and offer advice."
"This project is designed to spark ideas in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields," said Ashley. "I already wanted to enter those fields, but this has given me the opportunity to further my interest and knowledge in those areas."
The teams were awarded points on cooperation and participation with other teams competing in the match.
"There were cooperation points and ranking points that totaled as much as a match win," Ashley said. "Everyone was very nice and supportive. They would help if they could."
"It's kind of hard to see someone else up to their elbows in the guts of your robot," added Jordan.
"No one trash talks the other teams," added John Rausch.
"It gets competing teams to look at the bigger picture," Ashley said. "The whole idea is to get interaction to solve major issues in the world. Sponsors look at the competition as a training ground for future employees. There were even companies there recruiting kids from the teams."
"There are also $14 million in scholarships available from this event," added Ann Marie Rausch. "There were also representatives from the business and military communities."
"Both the top-ranked team and the fourth-ranked team picked us," Painter said. "The top-ranked team was one we had beaten last year and the fourth-ranked team is a National Hall of Fame team.
"We have had experienced mentors tell us that things like this just don't happen to beginners in this competition," Painter said. "There are teams that have been participating for years that haven't qualified for the world championship."
"We are a novice team competing in the world competition for the second year in a row," said Ashley.
"I almost fell off the bleachers," said Ann Marie. "We were shell-shocked."
The team is excited and geared up for their upcoming competition in St. Louis.
"This will include every team that won regionals on earth," said John. "Winning there will mean you are the best in the world."
The team is sponsored by NASA, JC Penney, IMEC in Monett, the Pearl Foundation, Meeks Lumber, O'Reilly Automotive, Sprenkle and Associates, the Marionville Branch Library, Missouri 4-H, Journagan's True Value and other local organizations and individuals.
The Bit by Bit 4-H robotics team benefitted from parents and several mentors over the course of the six-month build. Those include: Melissa Gallian, a retired nuclear power plant operator who lives in Crane; Dave Duncan, a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Aurora; and Robert Botts, who works at IMEC in Monett with auto cad design assistance and tutoring.
FRC is sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition in Science and Technology). FIRST was founded in 1989 to inspire young people's interest and participation in science and technology. The not-for-profit organization, based in Manchester, N.H., designs accessible and innovative programs to motivate young people to pursue education and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math, while building self-confidence, knowledge and life skills.