BELDING — The Belding Robotics Team set out to win its second straight home tournament in Redskin Arena at Belding High School on Saturday, but in the end, the competition proved to be just a little too tough.
Belding entered the competition with three teams of two students each, with the three teams controlling one robot each under the registered team names of 7173, 7173B and 7173C.
All 29 teams that competed Saturday first had to battle it out in five qualifying rounds with robots built by the students themselves.
Teams were paired together in an arena in which two alliances of two robots each compete to score points by strategically placing balls in designated areas of the arena in a timeframe of two minutes — the goal being to score the most points.
Belding’s three teams finished the qualifying rounds with 7173C, controlled by senior Garrett Spencer, 17, and senior Tre Robinson, 17, finishing eighth with a record of 4-1.
Team 7173, controlled by senior Haley Davis, 17, and junior Taylor Sluiter, 17, finished 11th with a record of 3-2.
Team 7173B, controlled by sophomore Jessie Boyd, 15, and junior John Parcher, 17, finished 19th with a record of 2-3.
Once the qualifying rounds were completed, teams were paired into alliances of three teams each and then competed in a “best of three” quarterfinal round.
All three Belding teams were then paired with two additional teams from other schools, unlike last year, when both of Belding’s two teams paired together to win the tournament.
Having all three Belding teams on separate alliances gave Belding a better chance statistically to win the tournament and created a scenario that could have seen two Belding teams facing each other in the final round of competition.
Each team successfully competed and advanced from the quarterfinals and into the semi final rounds, but strong alliances of teams from Grandville and Lansing Sexton, as well as Notre Dame Preparatory School of Pontiac and Dewitt, proved to be too strong.
“It was ‘David and Goliath’ and we were David,” Belding Coach Tom Daller said.
Daller said the three-team alliance of two teams from Notre Dame Preparatory School, who aligned with a team from Dewitt, stole the show and won the tournament.
“Our best bot ran into them in the semi finals, we took them to three matches, it was close, but they were just amazing,” he said.
Daller said his students competed well, and more importantly, walked away learning a few things to prepare them for their next competition — the state competition at Michigan State University on March 2.
“We already had two of our teams, 7173 and 7173B, qualify for the state competition by winning our league and league tournament this year,” he said. “So we didn’t have to win our tournament, but we sure wanted to.”
Daller said his students will make some changes to their robots, specifically focusing on making them faster, before they compete at Michigan State University.
Though his students didn’t win the tournament, Daller said the day was a “huge success,” as the tournament acts as the sole fundraiser for the robotics team, which is self-funded and sponsored by Stahlin Non-Metallic Enclosures in Belding.
“We raised about $3,000 today between entry fees and concessions,” Daller said. “If we qualify and want to compete at the world competition in Anaheim, Calif., we’re going to need between $5,000 and $6,000 to go.
Davis was disappointed to lose to the eventual tournament champions after taking them to three rounds, but said she and her fellow team members wont be deterred by the defeat. Davis joined the team at the beginning of this school school year when she stayed after class and observed the robotics team members working on one of the robots.
With her curiosity getting the best of her, she joined the team and hasn’t looked back.
“I’m just really happy that I joined,” she said. “It’s very interesting and more fun than people give it credit for.”
Davis said she was not surprised by the level of competition at the tournament, as Belding High School saw more teams competing this year than last year.
“We’ve been doing pretty good, but there are some bots here that are really good,” she said. “We played really good teams today, the competition was tough.”
Daller said volunteers began setting up for the tournament Friday evening after the boys varsity basketball game completed, and worked until 2 a.m.
Volunteers then returned at 6 a.m. Saturday and stayed until everything was cleaned up at 7 p.m.
“I just can’t thank the janitors, maintenance workers, all the people that I’ve known my entire life that put this thing together, enough,” he said. “They worked off the clock and donated their time to make this happen. It was a long day, but everything went well.”
Daller said the single most rewarding part of the tournament was seeing members of the Belding community showing their support.
“Local community members just showed up and watched for the day. It was awesome,” he said. “I had one student from another team tell me ‘this is the best venue we’ve ever played at,’ and that means the world to us.”
Daller said he once again was proud to see his students represent Belding on their home turf.
“For them, it gives them an opportunity to be in the spotlight,” he said. “If anything, that’s what they enjoy the most. Today, they were the stars.”