HULL—Trinity Christian High School is building a successful robotics program, but the team has some unfinished business.
The school’s robotics team The BzBots placed second at the FIRST Tech Challenge Iowa Championship held Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23 in Coralville, earning an invitation to the World Championship in Detroit.
The BzBots finished first in the Black Alliance Division. There were 48 teams competing at state with 24 in each division.
“We were very proud of the team’s performance,” said coach Toby Boogerd. “Being the winning alliance guaranteed us the trip to worlds.”
Boogerd and the team are waiting for approval from the Trinity Christian school board to make the trip to World Championship, which will be held April 24-27.
“We have a few things that need to be worked out before the board gives us final approval,” Boogerd said.
Trinity Christian entered the Iowa Championship ranked third in the state. While the team outperformed its ranking, it was close to winning the whole thing.
To make it to the final round, the BzBots had to win six qualifying matches.
“After that, there is the alliance selection where the top four teams pick two other teams to be on their alliance,” said junior Andrew Kuiper. “Then there will be semifinals, finals of our division and finally the championship.”
After winning its division Trinity entered the finals with the No. 1 seed. The BzBots had the option to pick its top choice and a second option to partner with on the Blue Alliance team. It selected Recharged Green of Pella High School and Robo Warriors of Norwalk High School.
Trinity Christian and Pella led 302-274 over the Red Alliance with 10 seconds remaining in the championship. In the final 10 seconds, the robots attempted to latch onto the lander for points, but Recharged Green’s robot was unable to latch.
“As they were trying to latch, it cracked because they built their latch out of plastic,” Kuiper said.
Latching onto the lander is worth 50 points per robot. The BzBots lost by 35 points.
Despite the outcome, the Trinity Christian students felt they did the best at everything within their control.
“We really didn’t know what to expect. Almost all of our meets before that had been — first matches, something went wrong,” Kuiper said. “We really didn’t know how good we were going to do against the top teams in the other division. It was kind of surprising to us when we were able to go all the way to the championships without losing.”
After their performance at the Iowa Championship, the BzBots thanked some of the businesses that help make the program possible.
“We went and visited some businesses around here to show them our robot — show them the parts they made for us and get to know them and get a better connections with them,” said junior Dawson Vis.
“And just thank them as well,” added second coach Jason Westra. “We’ve had companies that have helped us laser-cut parts or machine a few parts we’ve designed. Just saying thank you to them is important. We have a few here in Hull, few in Rock Valley and a few in Sioux Center. It’s a whole community.”
The robotics program has an appeal to students with a variety of interests. Since there are several aspects that make up a team, there is a place for each of the nine members to contribute.
“I like building things and everything mechanical,” said senior Ivan De Vries. “I like the building part but I kind of more enjoy the programming side of things too.”
Vis and Kuiper joined the team because of their interests in the engineering field. Vis designs parts for the robot with a computer-aided drafting program. Kuiper did some designing before switching his focus to programming.