Buc'n'Gears reach world championship quarterfinals

Krystle Wagner • May 3, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Grand Haven High School’s robotics team competed alongside teams on a world stage last week for the third year in a row, falling in the quarterfinals.

The Buc’n’Gears were among 400 teams to compete in the F.I.R.S.T. (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Detroit Championship, April 25-28. Coach Chuck Priese said they had a “great weekend.”

The Grand Haven team’s record at the world championship was 8-1-0, and qualifications seeded them in sixth place on the Tesla Field. In the finals, the team went 1-2-0 before losing in the quarterfinals.

Priese said they were captains on the fifth alliance, participating with Team 2168 The Aluminum Falcons from Groton, Connecticut; Team 85 B.O.B. from Zeeland; and Team 2474 Excel from Niles.

“Our teammates did a great job, and our robots worked well together,” Priese said.

Since the world championship takes place during school days, students had the option of attending. About half of the team and some parents traveled with the team, and some students spent partial days competing.

The 2018 F.I.R.S.T. Robotics season was themed after a 1980s arcade game. Part of the “Power Up” game required robots to place “power cubes” onto a balance, which teams had to make tip in their favor.

Looking back at the season, Priese said he’s pleased at what the Grand Haven team accomplished. The Buc’n’Gears played in the finals at four events and were the alliance captains at three. The team also earned the Pit Safety Award once and the Industrial Safety Award twice.

“The team’s robot design accomplished its goals and held together for all of the events without issues,” Priese said.

The 2018 team was comprised of 21 students — seven girls and 14 boys — and was the largest ever for GHHS robotics. Ten of the 21 students were new to the team, Priese noted. 

In addition to local professionals who volunteered as mentors, GHHS alumnus Ethan Jacot mentored the team while also attending college.

By participating in F.I.R.S.T. Robotics, Priese said he hopes students gain an appreciation for teamwork and S.T.E.M. (science, technology, engineering and math).

“I hope that they see how — with hard work, dedication and teamwork — you can accomplish a goal that seems overwhelming,” the coach said. “I hope students see that with cooperation and compromise they can do great things. I also hope that students see that to think of something in your mind, an idea, and then creating that thing is an amazing feeling.”

Although the team is done competing, Priese said he heard from sub-teams that they want to work on activities to help with their next season.

“We will spend time training and developing new robot technologies as well as working on team development and growth,” he said.

F.I.R.S.T. has leagues for elementary, middle and high school students. Robinson Elementary School had a F.I.R.S.T. Lego League for the first time this school year with 24 students participating.

“We hope to add more teams in the elementary and possibly see a middle school FTC (F.I.R.S.T. Tech Challenge) team start,” Priese said.

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