Fort Dodge Community School District

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Teamwork is Key in Robotics - from The Messenger

January 10, 2022

Rubber ducks were quite valuable in the world of robotics on Saturday.

They were used to score points during the high school robotics league championships at Fort Dodge Senior High on Saturday.

"Lots of ducks scored," the announcer could be heard saying during a match. "That's going to be a lot of points."

Seventeen teams competed in the league championships. Two were from Fort Dodge Senior High. One robot is 10185 from the island of misfit robots and the other is the 7332 Dodger Bots.

"We are the red league," said Ed Birkey, Senior High industrial tech instructor. "There are eight leagues in the state."

The event began at 8 a.m. with interviews and inspections. Head-to-head competition started in the late morning. It was well attended with dozens of friends and family members sitting in the bleachers.

At one point during the competition, the judges respectfully asked that the crowd in attendance turn off their Bluetooth and WiFi hot spots. The students use Bluetooth to connect the robot with the controller.

Teams gather their robots in a 12-foot-by-12-foot square field. Two alliances, made up of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15-second autonomous period followed by one minute and 45 seconds of driver-controlled play.

Judges consider how the robot was built, but the teams that advance have to demonstrate success in other areas.

"Judges look to see how the robot is designed and who has the best engineering notebook," Birkey said. "You don't have to have the best robot to advance. They give you a ranking based on the season. By the end of the regular matches, you want to be top four to be able to pick an alliance partner. Sometimes the No. 1 team will be the No. 2 team."

Every year a new game is picked to test the robots.

"We start in November and have a league championship in January," Birkey said.

Fort Dodge Senior High has participated in robotics for nine years.

Birkey's teams have been successful.

"Two years ago we had the world record for most points scored," he said.

There's a lot of different roles on the robotics team.

"We have kids that design, fundraise, drive or make parts," Birkey said.

The best part is watching students work together and develop their skills.

"You build a lot of relationships," Birkey said. "It's fun to listen to them on the van rides. They spend a lot of time together after school and on Saturdays."

Later this year will be the state championships in Iowa City. There will be 48 teams participating in that competition.

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