Santa Ynez Valley Union High School’s robotics team made the most of its inaugural trip to the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis, becoming the first rookie squad to ever advance to the finals of the prestigious global gathering of student engineers.
Santa Ynez and its alliance partners — Team 1678 from Da Vinci Charter Academy in Davis, Team 1640 from Downington, Pa., and Team 1114 from Governor Simcoe Secondary School in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada — won the FIRST’s “Highest Rookie Seed – Newton Division” in their march to the finals. In the championship series, however, they met their match against the victorious alliance headed by Team 254, the Cheesy Poofs, from San Jose.
The MechaPirates are led by Santa Ynez High physics teacher Gretchen Smith and mentors Mike Limotta, Burt Riblet, Kevin Sparkman and Marvin Goodwin. Student officer leaders are Quinn Mikelson, AnnaHelen Weber, Brooke Goodwin and Parker Grand.
Last month, the team won rookie honors at the FIRST Robotics Central Valley Regionals in Madera. The triumph sent them on their way to St. Louis to compete in a field of 400 teams from the United States, Canada, Chile, Israel, Mexico and the Netherlands.
The grand finale included live music from Will.i.am and Rachel Crow. CEOs and executives from Avon, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, NASA, National Instruments, Qualcomm and United Technologies, along with an Air Force brigadier general, all spoke to the students about the benefits the robotics competition provides for their future.
Sponsors of the MechaPirates include Limotta IT, Santa Ynez Valley Foundation, Santa Ynez Valley Youth Recreation, Chevron, Corner Capital Partners LLC, Marvin Goodwin Construction, Pacific Advanced Technology, Lori Plater, Raytheon, Rotary Club of Los Olivos, Solvang Rotary Club and Jim Wittmann.
— Andy Weber is a Santa Ynez Valley Union High School parent.