Iowa City Press-Citizen: Robots Invade Carver-Hawkeye Arena

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FIRST Tech Challenge features 72 teams competing from 13 states

By Holly Hines
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Members of the Shufflebots robotics team of Williamsburg experienced hands-on learning, problem-solving situations and a sense of satisfaction at a championship that ended Saturday.

Garrett Knepper, a Williamsburg High School senior and Shufflebots member, said his experience working on the team’s robot during the past eight months reinforced his desire to become an engineer.

“It just gives you a good sense of fulfillment,” Knepper said.

Shufflebots members attended a three-day FIRST Tech Challenge North Super-Regional championship at Carver Hawkeye Arena that took place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for robotics teams who qualified during state and regional events.

The Shufflebots placed 20th out of 36 teams in their division at the Super-Regional event. A total of 72 teams competed in two divisions.

This event comes after a state FIRST Tech Challenge event that took place in February in Coralville.

The challenge teams tackled this year required students to cooperate with other teams while also pitting their robots against one another. Teams scored points by using their robots to do tasks such as retrieving blocks and raising flags.

Kevin Wilkinson, a Williamsburg teacher and a mentor to the Shufflebots, said students’ interest in robotics at Williamsburg is growing, and the school likely will offer a second robotics team next year to meet demand.

He said robotics can help students understand the engineering behind everyday objects, apply math skills and see how society needs engineers.

“I think these students have figured that out,” he said.

Cullen Turner, a Williamsburg senior and the team’s coach, said he helped start the robotics team at Williamsburg two years ago.

Turner said the problem-solving and brainstorming aspects of robotics inspired him to give the activity a try.

“That was really intriguing to me,” he said.

Hannah Malloy, a freshman at Williamsburg, said she attended the event Saturday to support the Shufflebots and show her little brother what Robotics is all about.

She said thought she didn’t know much about robotics before the event, the experience was interesting for her.

“It’s definitely different,” she said. “I like it.”