EAST LANSING — The goal of every competitor is to pit themselves against the greatest in their field and this weekend the Belding robotics team will get a chance to do just that.
Two of the three Belding teams have qualified for the state championships held Sunday at Michigan State University and will for the fourth year in a row go up against the best robotics teams in the state.
“Last year we lost in the semis,” said Coach Tom Daller said. “We’re hoping to improve on that drastically.”
Fifty teams from across the state, including teams from Detroit, Dewitt, Grandville, Lansing, Haslet and Traverse City, will take part in the competitor.
“This state tournament challenges these young engineers and designers to strengthen their skills in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM),” said Drew Kim, assistant to the dean for recruitment, scholarship and K-12 outreach in MSU’s College of Engineering. “The championship also showcases the MSU campus to this talented generation of students preparing for technical fields.”
Using the robots they built, teams compete on a 12-by-12-foot playing field, scoring 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. “The VEX robotics program helps middle and high school students learn the basics of engineering and how to work together as a team,” said Bob Watson, K-12 outreach/robotics coordinator for MSU’s College of Engineering. “It is a direct response to our country’s need for constantly improving innovations.”
In order to qualify for the state meet, a team must win a tournament during the season or win their respective league.
For Belding, winning the Grandville League, which consists of 40 teams, earned their trip to the finals. Competing Sunday will be team 7173A, sophomore Jessie Boyd and junior John Parcher, and 7173C, junior Taylor Sluiter and senior Haley Davis.
Winners from the four top team alliances at the state championship will advance to the World Competition held in Anaheim, Calif. in late April. Of the 9,600 robotics teams worldwide, the top 400 advance to the World Competition.
“That’s kind of what we’re all hoping for,” Daller said. “They’ve been working every day. What started as a once-a-month club has turned into an every day thing.”
As the students travel east to MSU, there will be plenty cheering them on back home.
“The team has been excellent for many years. Tom does a great job with the kids and it’s fun to watch them grow,” said Belding High School Principal Brett Zuver. “We’ll keep our fingers crossed and will be rooting hard.”