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A tough loss for Team 1425

West Linn-Wilsonville's high school robotics team ends its season at the Portland regional competition


by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Mechanical team lead Ryan Kelly, center, prepares his team's robot for competition.West Linn-Wilsonville’s high school robotics team, FIRST Team 1425, went into the state championship last weekend with an equal mix of anticipation and confidence. The team had a solid history of success, having participated in three regional competitions in the past six weeks and won two of them.

Unfortunately, mechanical problems kept 1425 from performing at its normal level. The team placed 52 out of 63 teams at the Portland regional competition held last Thursday through Saturday at Memorial Coliseum, and the team failed to qualify for the international competition to be held later this month.

Still, the team’s adviser, Wilsonville High School teacher Kris Troha, judged the team’s season a success.

“We were finalists in three district events, including winning two of them,” Troha said. “We hosted a successful district event in the middle of building a robot, and we won multiple awards for excellence in engineering. Most of us are not disappointed about missing an opportunity for world championships; we just really wanted to show off the full abilities of our robot and drive team.”

The prime factor in the team’s performance was an undiagnosed motor issue that affected the ability of 1425’s robot to compete successfully in this year’s challenge of throwing large balls over bars, through hoops and around other obstacles.

“There was a motor on a shooter that failed in a way that it typically doesn’t, in a way that we haven’t experienced before,” Troha said. “That caused problems on probably eight out of our 12 matches. ... Typically, we’ll diagnose a problem within three matches — that’s about half a day.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville High School's robotics team members compete Friday at the US FIRST Portland Regional at Memorial Coliseum.

1425’s mechanical and drive teams worked throughout the competition to identify and correct the robot’s performance problem.

“We kept changing something in between every match,” Troha said. “We just never found the root cause. Every match was, ‘We think we fixed it,’ and we didn’t. It wasn’t until really the last match of the competition that we knew it was going to work. We came out and played well, but at that point it was too late.”

Troha said his team wouldn’t let their disappointment linger.

“It’s healthy to have this happen every once in a while,” he said. “2010 was the last time that we didn’t go to world championships. For the organization, it’s healthy. You learn a lot more from failure than you do from success. Having this opportunity, seeing what we can change to be better, that’s what engineering is all about. That’s how we approach this. This is an excellent learning opportunity.”

The members of 1425 will take a few days off before resuming regular meetings. Now that the competition season is over for the team, it’s time to turn attention to other priorities, Troha said.

“We continue to meet all year,” he said. “This is a year-round program. Now is the time where we are looking at all the things that are not the robot.”

Team priorities will include community outreach, working with younger members of Lego robotics teams from around the school district, recruiting new members and training for next year. 1425’s marketing team will spend some time in the spotlight as the group works to thank this year’s sponsors and begins to recruit new sponsors.

With only two seniors on the team this year, Troha expects a strong team again, with the 2014-15 team ready to build on this year’s success.

“I’m proud of all they accomplished and how they have handled the outcome,” he said.

For more information about FIRST Team 1425, visit the team’s website at wilsonvillerobotics.com.


By Kate Hoots
Education reporter
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by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville High School robotics team members compete Friday at the US FIRST Portland Regional at Memorial Coliseum.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Team 1425's robot undergoes maintenance between rounds at the Memorial Coliseum during the US FIRST Portland Regional, held last Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Members of Error Code Xero sport their team's flame symbol on their clothing and even sometimes their hair.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville High School Team 1425 members work on their robot in the 'pit' at the Memorial Coliseum during the Portland Regional.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Robot operators monitor the playing field at the Memorial Coliseum during the Portland Regional Friday.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Ryan Kelly, 1425's mechanical team lead, keeps a close eye on the Wilsonviille team's robot.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville High School robotics team members applaud their alliance teammates during a qualifying match at the Portland Regional at Memorial Coliseum last Friday.



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