SM East, SM North, Bishop Miege put best robots forward at Cow Town ThrowDown

Robots maneuver at one end of the arena during the Cow Town ThrowDown.
Robots maneuver at one end of the arena during the Cow Town ThrowDown.

Robotics teams from SM East, SM North and Bishop Miege competed Saturday in the Cow Town ThrowDown, an event that drew teams from as far away as Colorado and North Dakota and packed the field house stands at Lee’s Summit High School.

The SM East team works in the pits between rounds.
The SM East team works in the pits between rounds.

The ThrowDown gives the teams a chance to work together and hone some engineering skills before the layers of national robotics competition starts next year. Forty-eight teams (with a waiting list) were part of the ThrowDown which challenged the robots to fire Frisbees through an elevated slot at the end of the competition arena and climb a metal tower for extra points in a game called Ultimate Ascent. The robots also had to reload.

SM East made it into the quarter-finals as part of an alliance. The teams work in randomly matched groups of threes during the qualifying rounds and can form alliances for the final rounds. Each team has a “pit” area to make adjustments to its robot between rounds.

The challenge for next year’s national competition (the task the robots must perform) will be issued after the first of the year and each team will receive a parts kit and have a few weeks to build its robot before the regionals in March. Ultimate Ascent was the challenge for 2013. The robots cost several thousand dollars (entry fees and kits are $6,000) to build. The Shawnee Mission teams must raise their own funds each year to cover the costs; the district does not provide funds to build the robots.

The SM North team is the North Starts and the SM East team goes by the name Sargon. Bishop Miege fielded a team, STAGrobotics. The competitions run on a standard of “gracious professionalism” since the teams compete in alliances and are encouraged to share parts and equipment.

Among the spectators at Cow Town ThrowDown: college representatives scouting science and engineering students.

The SM East robotics team at the Cow Town ThrowDown.
The SM East robotics team at the Cow Town ThrowDown.