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High school hosts robotics competition

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200 students from across Colorado come to Clear Creek

By Corinne Westeman

Clear Creek High for the first time hosted a robotics competition on Saturday, a First Tech Challenge qualifier for the state competition. The day drew almost 200 students from 16 schools across the state — from Arvada and Fort Collins to New Castle and Kremmling.

Clear Creek’s team did not compete because hosting a qualifier automatically guarantees a spot in the state competition.

However, last weekend’s event gave team member Benjamin Perkins, a CCHS junior, and his three teammates "a feel for how (a qualifier) works," before they compete in one this Saturday.

The high school gym was packed with a "pit area," where each team — which had from three to 15 members — had a table holding its robots, parts, computers and other technology. In front of the bleachers was a mat where the robots competed.

Each team, Perkins explained, formed an alliance with another, and two alliances competed in a match on the mat.

Each match lasted two minutes and 30 seconds, and the alliances received points whenever robots completed various tasks, such as moving without anyone at the controls, picking up and throwing a ball, and claiming a light that would change colors when hit. Usually, each team competes in six to eight matches per tournament, not including the elimination rounds, Perkins said.

The teams changed alliances for each match, Perkins said, adding that working with other teams teaches participants "professionalism and cooperation." Alliance members work together, sometimes giving each other parts, he said.

"But sometimes it's frustrating when the other teams in your alliance don't pass inspection or their robot isn't working," Perkins continued.

Colorado State University extension director Christine Crouse, who helped Clear Creek organize the competition, said robotics helps teach problem-solving, communication, cooperation and listening skills.

"It's an opportunity to work on life skills, such as public speaking and budgeting," she continued.

Perkins and Crouse said it was "great for (Clear Creek) to get more recognition and outreach."

The only hiccup, they said, was that the set-up crew was delayed in ski traffic, so the competition started about an hour later than scheduled. However, Crouse said it’s not unusual for competitions to run late.

Jacqui Robinson, parent of a Fort Collins area student, said their group also ran into "really bad ski traffic" on the way to CCHS, but that overall the competition ran smoothly.

"It's very organized, and they're trying to keep things on track," she said. "For a robotics tournament, it's very well run. ... I would come back."

Robinson said it’s important for students to feel supported in all their activities — whether athletic or academic.

"A day (at a robotics competition) can be very exciting or very frustrating, depending on how their robot is performing," she said. "But it's important to be here, all the same."

Contact reporter Corinne Westeman at 303-350-1043 or cwesteman@evergreenco.com, and follow her on Twitter @cwesteman.