Highland Park Squad Wins Illinois State Robotics Championship

HIGHLAND PARK, IL — After a extraordinary appear-from-driving victory, a team of 9 Highland Park High Faculty juniors have been topped robotic-constructing champions of Illinois.

The Rust in Piece Robotics staff, a local community squad independent of the significant school’s prestigious robotics plan, won the Initially Tech Problem condition championship Saturday at Elgin Neighborhood Faculty.

Their victory implies — for the second time in four years and the ninth time because 2008 — a group from Highland Park is headed to the environment championships.

The To start with Tech Challenge, or FTC, is a robotics opposition for center and significant schoolers where by learners collaborate to design and style, develop and software robots to comprehensive a certain match, with rules that adjust just about every calendar year.

Groups, ranging from four to a highest of 15 users, establish robots and make strategic alliances with one an additional to compete in arenas in multi-robotic showdowns. And, at the point out championships, they are also tasked with presenting their do the job to judges in a trade demonstrate-design format.

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“We use robots to establish young ones, not acquiring kids create robots,” mentioned Jonathan Weiland, director of the Illinois FTC.

This year’s challenge, “Freight Frenzy,” featured a challenge to establish a robot that can traverse difficult terrain to navigate road blocks to decide on up and transportation blocks of different weights, compact balls and rubber ducks.

“It truly is like the UPS corporation or Federal Specific, they have to go objects from the warehouse to the delivery hubs,” Weiland mentioned.

Rust In Piece, or RIP, capable as a single of the 36 groups to make it to the condition finals following final month placing as the runner-up for the all-around award in the northeast suburban regional.


(Courtesy Erica Cohen)

Just after publishing top rated scores the first two rounds of the condition finals, a flip by a husband or wife team dropped the crew down to 14th, but the squad was ready to continue to be alive and make it to the playoffs by scoring just substantial enough in the fourth round to make the best four.

In the playoff round, a surprise semifinal upset of the prime-seeded teams intended RIP, captain of the third-seeded alliance, faced off in the finals in opposition to the fourth-seeded alliance and gained.

Weiland, the previous mentor of Highland Park Higher School’s robotics squad, retired as a science trainer there following the 2018-19 faculty year. That year, one of its groups, Vertigo, the robotics program’s 1st and only acquire of the Encourage Award, the most prestigious awarded by FTC, which recognizes the most well-rounded software.

The winner and runner-up of the Encourage Award, together with the crew that captains the profitable alliance, like Rust In Piece did, qualify for the globe championships this 12 months.

Because Weiland very first commenced primary Illinois FTC in 2011, the state’s method has developed from 32 participating teams to a pre-coronavirus peak of more than 200. This yr, there were being more than 166 groups competing. Typically about fifty percent are arranged by colleges and 50 % are group-supported, he said.

This 12 months, Highland Park fielded 3 just lately fashioned teams from the high college — Steel Serpents, Motor Cortex, Out of Cache — as very well as a few local community teams — Rust In Piece, Vertigo and It really is Gotta Blow.

“Highland Park, we have had good achievements, and achievement breeds good results,” Weiland explained to Patch. “Like the Yankees, I guess they acquire a good deal. It can help to be thriving.”


(Stephen Household/Courtesy Very first Tech Challenge)

When the very first wave of COVID-19 infections in Illinois led faculties to near their doorways in the spring of 2020, members of Vertigo and Rust In Piece resolved they have been not likely to give up making robots or competing in the FTC, recalled HPHS mother or father Erica Cohen, who grew to become the mentor of the workforce.

“This became a total-time work,” Cohen mentioned. “I have zero, zero, zero working experience in engineering. I have engineering boys, but it is really just not my amount of comprehension.”

Cohen’s more mature son, Benjamin, was a member of the 2019 point out champion Vertigo team. Following graduating that 12 months, he was awarded a total-ride scholarship to the College of Southern California, exactly where he is trustee scholar and Viterbi University of Engineering fellow majoring in mechanical engineering. Her more youthful son, Adin, was getting into the spring of his freshman 12 months as the pandemic spread to Illinois.

“COVID strike and Vertigo and Rust in Piece ended up like, ‘We’re not likely to prevent doing this,’ and I had the dad and mom contacting me,” Cohen said. “My kid’s still likely to go to school in four yrs. You cannot end finding out, suitable?”

The robotics competition is more like a entire academic study course than a common soon after-school club, Cohen informed Patch.

“It has a larger curriculum in it, as significantly as a math class or a science course,” Cohen stated. “So these parents who we saw that football was going to go, and that the mentor of soccer was likely to go, and we noticed that tennis was going — it was like these mothers and fathers of these fantastic, good STEM young ones were being like, ‘What about STEM?'”

Cohen mentioned she termed Weiland, who offered some assistanc
e on how to coach the workforce.

“Simply because of that, we didn’t miss out a total 12 months and a 50 percent of discovering, which is amazing,” she mentioned. “These youngsters are now extra organized to go wherever they utilize for engineering college.”

FTC environment championships have been canceled in 2020 and 2021, but the Illinois FTC nevertheless held 2021 condition championships, conducting the opposition remotely by way of videos of robots in students’ houses.

“You just were not competing from anybody,” Weiland mentioned. “So it was not as a lot exciting.”

In August 2020, just after mastering that Highland Park Higher University would continue being distant for the coming college year, Adin switched from Vertigo to Rust In Piece.

“I actually felt strongly — and the young children have called me ‘Crazy Robo-Mom’ a few occasions — I really felt strongly that if I was likely to do this, they have been heading to stick to the curriculum,” Cohen said. “I was not going to fall the ball, wherever they would just be tinkering and playing.”

Working additional hrs out of Cohen’s basement, students on the squad divided up responsibilities according to their personal skills. Even though just about every member knows about, and supports, all the other roles on the staff, which variety from coming up with, building, programming, documenting and outreach, each individual member does not try to do it all.

“Presently, in a ton of studying environments, just about every child is meant to do each and every single position, you know, ‘Every kid must push the robot,’ ‘Every child must develop the robot,’ ‘Every child really should code the robotic.’ Our group did not operate that way,” Cohen explained. “Just like a business enterprise, they all took their function, and that’s what built them so perfectly-oiled.”

Rust In Piece lifted about $12,000 through sponsorships and donations, despite the worries connected with traditional sorts of fundraising, like bake gross sales, amid the coronavirus. However, the team was in a position to elevate $2,200 by internet hosting a “garage income for gears” event, Cohen reported.

The crew also took a piece of software package Weiland established to make it possible for teams to check their robots with no bodily access to equipment, the Digital Robot Simulator, to Wilmot Elementary College in Deerfield Faculty District 109, where by 5th graders used seven months discovering to program robots.

“That’s what I am most happy of,” Weiland mentioned, “is that they do additional than robots and they’re trying to carry the coding and engineering practical experience to a lot more children.”


(Courtesy Erica Cohen)

Rust In Piece’s squad is made up of Humza Ansari, Adin Cohen, Ross Goldbaum, Jacob Hoyt, Josh Jacobson, Leah Jacobson, Spencer Nguyen, Ari Posner and Will Richter. Its sponsors bundled Accurate Perforating and Precise Fabricating, Imperial Group, VOUS Nutritional vitamins, Servo City, 4XF Luggage, the Rock Spot and CoinFlip.

Weiland, the retired HPHS teacher and present-day Illinois FTC director, has sought to elevate aggressive robotics to the equal of the expertise of significant school athletics — except it is just one exactly where all the members can properly flip pro.

Out of about 13,000 college students to graduate HPHS through his 26 decades as a instructor there, he mentioned, there had been about 10 who had manufactured it to some type of experienced degree in athletics, which includes one who was lower ahead of finding a deal.

“But most people on my robotics groups has all absent on to intriguing occupations,” Weiland explained. “Which is why we take into account ourselves the varsity activity of the intellect, and which is why we hold our tournaments in stadiums and basketball arenas, mainly because people equate that working experience with energy and intrigue and prestige.”

The FTC environment championships are scheduled to get area April 19 to April 23 at the George R. Brown Conference Center in Houston.