Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Time to read
3 minutes
Read so far

Cedar robotics program finishes out its season in Omaha

Posted in:

HARTINGTON – The second year of the Cedar Catholic High School robotics program has rolled to a close.

The Cedar Bots ended their season at the 2023 FIRST Tech Challenge Western Iowa Super Qualifier on Feb. 4 at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha.

Cedar Catholic qualified for the regional competition by having one of its three teams finish in ninth place out of 20 squads in the 2023 Magnetic League Tournament, held on Jan. 7 at Central Lyon High School in Rock Rapids, Iowa.

The Cedar Bots competed in Omaha thanks to the machine belonging to the team of senior Jay Steffen and sophomore Brett Stevens.

Cedar Catholic was represented in in the regional competition by Brett Stevens, as well as senior Alex Christensen, senior Jack Stevens and sophomore Christian Fiscus.

Steffen, senior Spencer Albers and sophomore Nicholas Coleman were unable to attend due to scheduling conflicts.

Cedar Catholic finished in 21st place out of the 24 squads who competed at the Super Qualifier.

“It was another learning experience, and at this tournament, the best of the teams rose to the top,” said Cedar Catholic science instructor Lowell Brown, the lead mentor for the Hartington school’s robotics program.

Brown explained the Cedar Bots had to deal with “struggles with machine failure at inopportune times, and difficulty during manual control of the machine, limiting our ability to acquire points.”

Brett Stevens, who has been a part of the Cedar Catholic robotics program in its first two years, noted he and his teammates should be proud of how they performed this season.

“It feels pretty good since this is only our second year,” he said. “We’ve learned a lot from other teams.”

Brown previously explained the 2022-23 season’s robotics challenge, which was titled “PowerPlay,” that his high school students had been taking on for their meets.

“The premise is to complete a circuit to allow energy to move as you place your markers to provide a complete current,” he said.

Brown noted Cedar Catholic saw some success at each of its competitions during the season making complete circuits.

“There were teams there that had been doing this many more years than we have, and we’re ahead of them,” he said. “I’m well satisfied with our efforts.”

Cedar Catholic’s robotics program is a regularly scheduled class that is part of the high school’s curriculum.

Albers called being part of the Cedar Bots “a new experience.”

“I’m a senior, and this is the first year that I’ve taken robotics,” he said. “Mr. Brown just asked me last year in one of his classes if I would be interested and I was like, ‘Sure.’” Albers enjoyed having to use critical thinking skills as part of Cedar Catholic’s robotics program.

“You have to figure out why this robot went left and how to make it go right instead,” he said. “Just the thinking that you need in it – you have to use your brain a lot in this class.

“You can’t just go in here and think that you’re going to be good at it right away,” he said. “You have to learn a lot and study up on codes and learn how to drive it perfectly.”

The Cedar Bots are part of the Magnetic League, which used to be called the Northwest Iowa League and is a part of the FIRST Tech Challenge – Iowa organization.

Cedar Catholic’s season kicked off on Oct. 29 in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, and was followed by a Nov. 19 competition in Sioux City, Iowa.

The Cedar Bots added a Dec. 3 meet in Hull, Iowa, to its schedule and concluded its regular season with a Dec. 17 competition in Hinton, Iowa, before taking part in the Magnetic League Tournament on Jan. 7.

Brown noted the “biggest difficulty” the Cedar Catholic robotics students had this season was machine operation failure at competitions.

“We were not the only team battling that dilemma,” he said. “It seemed like ours was so repetitive.” Brown recalled the Cedar Bots receiving assistance from other teams they competed against throughout the season. “We had a dilemma earlier in the year, and another team loaned us a piece of equipment that really improved us,” he said. “Don’t be bashful about asking for help.”

Despite the difficulties they dealt with, Brown was pleased with how ready the Cedar Bot team members were to get the season going and “just started running with it,” as far as the robotics challenge was concerned.

“They’ve done a great job,” he said. “Our programming’s gotten better, too.”

Brown noted the Cedar Catholic robotics students gradually improved over the course of the season.

“Overall, we all agreed that the season has been a success – and a true learning experience,” he said. “We are already discussing how to improve for next season.”

Brett Stevens, who plans to return to the Cedar Bots next year, explained he has enjoyed building the machines – noting, “it’s always been one of my favorite things to do” – and going to competitions.

“The people are always fun to hang around,” he said of meeting other schools’ robotics teams. “It’s always nice to hear somebody else’s story.”

Albers also has enjoyed getting to meet new people and attending competitions as part of the Cedar Bots.

“We’ve been pretty solid at meets,” he said. “It’s just been, I’d say, almost a roller coaster.

“It’s a very good class,” he said. “Everyone should at least give it a try. It’s been fun, definitely fun.”

Mark Mahoney | Cedar County News