ACME Robotics earns trip to Super Regionals with top 10 finish at NorCals | TheUnion.com

ACME Robotics earns trip to Super Regionals with top 10 finish at NorCals

ACME Robotics is moving on.

The independent robotics team, made up mostly of Nevada Union High School students working out of one of the school's portable buildings, finished eighth among 202 teams at the NorCal For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Tech Challenge at Newark Memorial High School on Feb. 19.

The top 10 finish sends ACME Robotics to the FTC West Super Regional in Tacoma, Washington March 9-11 for the first time in the team's three-year history.

The goal is to reach the World Championships April 19-22 in Houston, Texas by placing in the top 38 of the 72 teams at the Super Regionals.

"I'd say we have a 50-percent chance," said Kellen Bodine, one of the team's co-founders and the lead engineer. "We're one of the better teams based on (our data)."

THE TEAM

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Ryan Brott, 16, is in charge of scouting opponents, and he's also the team's software lead who does most of the robot's programming. A Nevada Union junior, Ryan helped found the team as a freshman. He wasn't surprised ACME advanced to the Super Regional.

"This is our third year as a team, and this is also our third year being in the (NorCal) Championships," he said. "It was just a matter of time before we moved on."

Bodine, 16, a junior at Nevada Union, said his love of engineering led him to help start the ACME team.

"I've always loved building things, and this gives me the perfect outlet to do that," he said. "The whole program is just really cool and it gives kids a lot of great opportunities … I knew I wanted to be some sort of engineer since I was probably 4 years old."

Bodine has been hard at work improving the robot for the trip to Washington.

"Our button presser is a little slow, and we keep improving the accuracy and speed of the components, primarily the ball launcher," Bodine said.

John Convis, 17, a Nevada Union junior in his second year with ACME, is in charge of the team's 3-D modeling, something new this year. He created a 3-D model of the robot, which helped ACME create special wheels the robot uses to fire balls.

Ivy Brott, 14, a Nevada Union freshman, handles the team's outreach, including fundraising, the website, social media and team events.

"My position is a way to get involved with the team without having to be good at coding or know exactly how to make a robot," Ivy Brott said. "My part is more connecting with the community, not the technical part."

Other team members include Shawn (last name withheld by request), Thea Pelayo and Kelly Muir. Michael Lewis and Stephanie Lewis help Oitzman as mentors.

GOTTA GET THERE

ACME Robotics operates on a budget of about $7,000 a year, excluding travel. The trip to Tacoma alone is going to cost about $7,000. The team has set up a GoFundMe page, gofundme.com/acme-robotics-superregionals-trip. Those wishing to help can also visit the team's website at goacmerobotics.com.

Team sponsor Telestream stepped up, with employee donations exceeding $1,500. The company matched the first $1,000, and Telestream CEO Dan Castles matched the $1,500 raised by employees to get the team more than halfway to its goal.

Autometrix, another of ACME's corporate sponsors, had raised $490 in employee donations as of Friday afternoon with a goal to reach $750. The company has also pledged to match the employee donations.

According to the ACME website, the team had raised $5,255 as of Monday afternoon.

HOW IT'S PLAYED

The challenge requires teams to fit their robot in an 18-by-18-inch box, but it may expand once it's been removed.

That's where the 3-D modeling comes in.

"It's helped out immensely," Convis said. "From the 3-D modeling, we were able to determine that we couldn't fit some of the parts we wanted to use."

They then compete on a field that's 12-by-12 feet and divided into red and blue sides.

This year's game, Velocity Vortex, consists of two driver/operators, one coach and one robot per team. There are four teams in each match, two sets of two-team alliances.

"There's a lot of politicking about what teams the kids want to align with," ACME mentor Mike Oitzman said.

In the center of the playing surface is a rotating vortex with one red and one blue "basket" that essentially serves as a basketball-like hoop. There are also vortices — ramps with a goal on top, one red and one blue — in opposing corners of the field and four beacons on top of the 1-foot-tall walls that frame the field.

Each team has multiple particles, which are essentially Wiffle balls, and one 21-inch cap ball. Teams are awarded points for a variety of things, most commonly shooting particles from the robot through the center vortex rings, scoring the particles in the corner vortices, and pushing the beacon when it flashes the color corresponding with a team's color.

The team that touches the beacon last is the only team awarded points.

To contact Staff Writer Stephen Roberson, email sroberson@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.