Robotics competition starts today

ESCANABA — Escanaba High School will be packed today and Saturday when the 2017 FIRST Robotics District competition gets underway. This is the fourth time the annual high school robotics event has been held in Escanaba.

High school students and their approximately 120-pound robots have traveled here from throughout Michigan to compete, battling it out to earn points during each two-minute round. The overall goal of the event is to promote careers in engineering or technology as students work one-on-one with the “pros” or professional engineers to create competition-grade robots. The robots may not exceed 3-feet in height and are powered by a 12-volt battery.

Escanaba Robomos coach and event coordinator for the district event, Marie Young, said she and her team of students are excited to be hosting the competition on their home turf.

“We’re excited to have it here,” said Young. “It’s really become a community event.”

Young explained the work put into creating the competition floor began on Tuesday and the final touches were completed Thursday evening. She said the time put into the robots and event is stressful, but rewarding.

“They (the students) are amazing workers,” Young said, adding the first stage of building the Escanaba team’s robots took six weeks.

According to Vickie Micheau, executive director at the Delta County Chamber of Commerce, not only does the robotics competition draw in visitors, coaches, teams and families, but it also makes a positive impact on Escanaba’s economy. Micheau said there are more teams coming to this year’s competition due to Young’s efforts.

“Because there are more teams, hotel occupancy will increase. When that happens, all businesses benefit. When hotel rooms are occupied by visitors, they spend time and money in the community.” Micheau said.

Micheau said that in order to determine the direct and secondary impact the competition will have on the local economy, the Chamber of Commerce will have a kiosk at the high school to gather data and compare it to information collected over the past two years.

Teams from the local area include Escanaba Robomos, Gladstone BraveBots, Big Bay de Noc Bear Bots, Bark River Harris I.C.E Cubed, Nah Tah Wahsh Robotawatomi, Manistique Junkyard Dawgs and North Central Mech Tech. New to the robotic scene is rookie team Carney-Nadeau Wolf Robotics.

Some visiting teams include D Cubed from Grand Rapids, The Instigators from Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Nimrod Nation from Watersmeet and many others.

Young said this year’s competition features the theme of “steampunk” and students will put their robots to the test during the FIRST Steamworks game. The FIRST Steamworks portion of the competition involves two clubs with three team members on a journey back to when technology relied on steam for power. The teams will have their robots build pressure, start its rotors and prepare for flight. Additionally, FIRST Steamworks will include a autonomous period, where the robots must operate independently from preprogrammed instructions for 15 seconds. There will also be a teleoperated period, where operators of the robots take control for the last two minutes and 15 seconds of the round. The team with the highest score at the end of the match wins.

Competition continues today until 8 p.m. and will resume Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.