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Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club Sweeps Regional Botball Tournament

Members of the Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club celebrate their success at the Greater Los Angeles Regional Botball Tournament.
Members of the Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club celebrate their success at the Greater Los Angeles Regional Botball Tournament. (Santa Barbara High School Computer Science Academy photo)

On Saturday, May 2, the Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club traveled to South Pasadena Middle School to participate in the Greater Los Angeles Regional Botball Tournament, a competition in which students write programs to control small robots in a competition.

The robots are built using a variety of parts supplied by the competition organizers, including Lego bricks, metal segments and a programmable version of the popular “iRobot Roomba” vacuum.

This year, the Botball Board consisted of a variety of height- and color-based challenges. In order to score points, teams had to build robots capable of sorting pom poms by color, placing different items into an elevated bin and removing items from shelves, among other tasks.

At the regional competition, teams’ overall scores are determined by seeding rounds (teams run their robots alone on the board), double elimination rounds (teams run against other teams on the board), and documentation — all of which are equally weighted. The SBHS Robotics Club placed first in seeding rounds with an average score of 95.2, scoring the competition high score of 155, and placed fifth in double elimination rounds. Their perfect scores on all documentation assignments and on the on-site presentation also helped to increase their overall placing.

Composed of five seniors, four juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen, the Robotics Club team met twice per week since early September, and met nearly every day for the two weeks leading up to the competition.

While the club is fairly small in comparison to other robotics and engineering groups, the vice president of the club, Catie Kerman, stated, “Our small size does keep us from being widely known, but it fosters a very close community. We strive to be all-inclusive. The best thing about the Robotics Club is that you can join in any grade level with no experience with robotics, by the end of the year have strong knowledge in mechanics, programming and an amazing set of friends.”

SBHS senior and president of the Robotics Club, Makala Hieshima, was thrilled with the team’s performance and said of the team: “I share with all of my fellow seniors a sense of overwhelming pride and confidence in the team’s future, as we leave the club in the hands of extremely capable, brilliant and passionate classmates.”

Graduating seniors from the club will be attending schools such as Carlton College, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara, and majoring in mechanical engineering, computer science, physics and history. Many members of the Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club are students in the new SBHS Computer Science Academy, which encourages students to use their programming knowledge in the study of robotics.

The SBHS Robotics Club beat 25 other teams at the Los Angeles Regional Tournament. They will head to Albuquerque, N.M., in July for the national competition.

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara High School Robotics Club.

— Felicia Kashevaroff is publicity chair for the Santa Barbara High School Computer Science Academy.

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