Plainview High School’s robotics team just cracked the code for success, and the younger students aren’t far behind.
The team placed first at the Oklahoma Regional Botball Tournament, which includes roughly 100 schools from parts of Texas, Missouri, Kansas and all of Oklahoma. Coach Maverick McClendon said Plainview is the first team from Southeastern Oklahoma to win the tournament. He said the sport is new to the region.
“We had some of the same kids but we had a lot of new kids too,” McClendon said. “Last year, we struggled with having programmers, so we jumped on it right from the very beginning.”
In addition to two rounds of competition, the teams scored points for their documentation, recording-keeping and a presentation of everything they’d done throughout the year. McClendon said those aspects of the competition kept the team in first even when they encountered technical troubles.
“We went undefeated the entire round and then lost at the last second,” McClendon said. “We had some issues going on, but we still had some pretty high scores, but our documentation saved us in the end.”
This year, engineers and programmers all learned at least some basic coding, so any student could jump in and address a problem when it came up.
The high school team, Team Arnold Palmer, built and programmed two robots based on Roombas, named Sweet Tea and Lemonade.
“We’d been there once, but we were a lot more ready for this year,” Vincent Cavallo, a senior, said. “This year, we stuck to our designated roles more.”
Jillian Clark, a senior, said last year the team ran into technical issues with the organization of the tournament, a frustrating setback that was out of their control.
“We thought the same thing was going to happen, but they fixed it,” Clark said.
Cavallo said the team ran into issues with the battery of their robot during the competition last year.
“We thought we were good, but then it happened again in the last round of finals,” Cavallo said. “When the light came on to start up the code, nothing happened and the robot just sat there.”
The Plainview Middle School team placed in the top 10, though final scores are not yet available.
Jeremiah Kagan, Jonathan Harrison and Madeline Ortiz, all eighth graders, said this year’s team was more organized right from the get-go.
“We had a big coding class the first month,” Harrison said.
Strong coders who were in the club last year, like Harrison, led the class in lessons to get newcomers up to speed.
Ortiz, a team engineer, said students who work to build the robots work differently, because there are so many of them.
“We all kind of scatter, almost,” Ortiz said, “We all think up a plan for what we want to do and build different parts to see what will work best.”