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The Tallmadge Middle School Robotics Club recently competed in the 31st annual National Robotics Challenge in Marion April 6-8. This year’s competition featured more than 1,000 competitors and 350 robots. The club traveled to the NRC challenge with 23 students and competed in six contests.
Participants were sixth-graders Dylon Donnell, Spencer Fleming, Trent Mitchell, Sean Nelson and Alex Wagner; seventh-graders Isaac Bee, Samuel Cortez, Richie Day, Nick Dodds, Nina Etchebarne, Tom Hoang, Samantha Hobbs, Grace Kostko, Jack Markley, Tommy Mayfield, Ethan McConihe, Derek Oberlin and Lauren Tan; and eighth-graders Peri Bollman, Ethan Chaplin, Michael Davis, Jordan Etchebarne and Connor Fleming. Tallmadge Middle School teachers Justin Christopher, Rich Day and Chad Nash serve as the club’s advisors.
According to Christopher, the TMSRC competed extremely well in each of the events entered and earned a first-place Gold in the Tactile Maze, second-place in Bot-Ball, and third-place in Bot-Ball and Robotic Hockey. This is the second year in a row Tactile Maze Robot designer and programmer Richie Day placed first in this event.
“Last year Richie barely won first-place by completing the maze in 47 seconds, so he challenged himself to design and program a robot that would complete it faster. In doing so, he set a new competition record by finishing the maze in 18 seconds” said Christopher.
In his first year competing at the NRC, Christopher said sixth-grader Dylon Donnell became a fan favorite and darling of the competition by displaying unbridled enthusiasm and team spirit while competing in the Bot-Ball event. Christopher said his uniquely designed robot finished second and earned the Silver award. Finishing closely behind in the Bot-Ball event and earning third-place were sixth-grade competitors Spencer Fleming, Sean Nelson and Trent Mitchell. Less than 10 points separated the places between the first-, second- and third-place competitors making Bot-Ball one of the most competitive events of the competition.
TMSRC members Richie Day, Ethan McConihe, Tom Hoang, Isaac Bee and Jack Markley entered the Robotics-Hockey competition for the first time in the club’s six-year history of competing at the NRC. Christopher explains Robotics-Hockey is unique in that teams have to design two robots to work in tandem to score goals and prevent the other team from scoring. Their goal was to build a respectable robot that could compete well in the event and possibly make the finals. Advisor Rich Day said, “The students started the day off on Thursday with several rookie mistakes, including having a robot with weak batteries and components needing tightened up. This was frustrating for me as a coach, but I knew our student’s determination and dedication would help them overcome these challenges. They were seated last in the tournament, but ultimately advanced to receive a third-place Bronze award in the event. I am very proud of how they overcame a rough start to be placed in the top three.”
In a surprise ending to the competition, the TMSRC advisors were honored with the first-ever Ambassador Award. The Award recognizes a team/school which has demonstrated the greatest effort in promoting the National Robotics Challenge to their community and/or the nation/globe.
This award also recognizes the promotion of robotics education in the state. For the past five years, the TMSRC advisors have hosted a satellite competition featuring NRC events Bot-Ball, Mini-Sumo and the Maze competitions at the annual NEO-Tech Conference held at Kent State University. The TMSRC has also recently formed a mentoring partnership with the Kent State University Robotics team allowing its members to learn from and work with college professors and students.