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September 2, 2014

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Education:

Cimarron-Memorial counting on ace at world robotics competition

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Christopher DeVargas

Stephen McKinney of Cimarron-Memorial High School disassembles his team’s competition robot Ace of Spades on April 24, 2012, in preparation for a major robotics competition in St. Louis.

Cimarron Robotics Team

Chad Pesquera, at left, and Joseph Mauro of Cimarron Memorial High School work on their competition robot Launch slideshow »

A lunchtime pep rally this week honored a six-wheeled, 3-foot-tall, basketball-shooting robot known as the Ace of Spades and the Cimarron-Memorial High School robotics team that built the contraption.

Eleven members of the 20-member Team 987, also known as the High Rollers, are geared up to compete this week in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics World Championship in St. Louis.

“In some schools it may be perceived as nerdy, but not on our campus,” Marc Rogers, robotics and chemistry teacher, said of the pep rally for the robot and the High Rollers.

“It’s really great because it’s nice to know the school is supporting you,” said Jacob Mauro, a senior and president of the team.

In the 12 years that Rogers has been an adviser to the High Rollers, they’ve gone to nine championships and won the 2007 title. Cimarron-Memorial goes into this year’s competition ranked No. 2 in the world, Rogers said.

Team 987 is diverse, with students from freshmen to seniors, athletes to tech enthusiasts.

Though the students are only asked to create one new robot in six weeks, the High Rollers decided to build two. One is used for practices while the other is shipped to the competition city before the event.

“I did all the programming for the robot,” said 15-year-old Brandon Hjelstrom. “This year’s game is quite hard because it’s shooting basketballs from a short robot.”

The robot was designed to shoot foam basketballs into hoops as tall as 8 feet. The robot that led the team to a third-place finish in the 2011 FIRST championship was built to pick up plastic tubes and place them on a 10-foot-tall shelf.

Robotics “is getting more accepted,” said Mauro, a 17-year-old. “People love this one.”

Two remotes are used to control the robot, which has its own camera to help those with the controllers position, aim and fire. Hjelstrom will control the aiming and shooting while Mauro will direct the robot around the court to pick up basketballs and get into position.

The competition started in January, and Cimarron-Memorial won both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas regional tournaments.

In the three-day FIRST championship that starts Thursday, the High Rollers’ Ace of Spades will be up against robots from about 3,000 schools. During the competition there are several qualifying rounds, where three robots are on the court at a time trying to score as many baskets as possible while 10,000 people in the audience watch.

“I think we’re going to win,” Mauro said confidently.

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