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Members of 7422C, 7422H, and 7422B teams with advisor Damien Jacotin back left and mentor Peter Neipp back right. / Courtesy Photo

Three BHS Robotics teams head to state championships

Sierra Sands Unified School District– 

For the first time in the 10-year history of the program, all three Burroughs High School robotics teams have qualified to represent their school at the California VEX Robotics Championships in San Luis Obispo on March 4.

The VEX robotic program designs a new game each year, ships robotics kits to student teams who use those parts, and then design and program robots to achieve objectives. Teams are randomly assigned an alliance, and the four compete to see whose robots can work together best to score points toward game objectives. This year’s game, “Spin Up,” is a play on frisbee golf.

Schools are assigned number designations (Burroughs is 7422), and programs can create as many teams as they choose. Although Burroughs has sent at least one team to the state nearly every year since the robotics program was started here, this is the first time all three have made it. And two of those teams are filled with a virtually all-rookie roster.

Damien Jacotin, STEM instructor and robotics advisor at BHS, said that although last year was the most successful year yet for the Robotic Burros — with two teams qualifying for state and the first-ever BHS team going to World Championships — it was also unusual because the vast majority of active club members graduated.

However, Junior Logan Elwell stepped up to lead 7422H, one of two teams to make it to state last year. Buoyed in part by their experience in previous years, 7422H emerged as a strong contender in the league from the beginning of the season.

“If someone had told me at the beginning of the season that all of our teams were going to make it to state, I would have been surprised,” said Jacotin. “But by the second half of the season, they were doing extremely well.”

The advisor attributes this in part to the time students put in. “I have always said that your performance reflects your time investment. When our students stay focused and engaged, it shows.”

Jacotin also credited some of the success of this year’s program to mentors, who helped lead 7422B to world championships last year and returned to their alma mater to help mentor students. Both 7422B and 7422C were able to build competitive robots that carried them to succeed in their home league.

7422H “Varsity” — Logan Elwell, Keiron Rank, Mikaella Juico, Julianna Davignon, Amanda Huynh, Matthew Sorenson, Eliajah Rosal, Jonah Gilbert, and Roxy Boggs

They won the division championships for the Kern Robotics League. They also came in second in the “Skills” competition, which tests the design and coding of individual robots.

7422B “Junior Varsity” — Kevin Jones, Rowen Nelson, Ian Patin, Christian Gilbert, Leon Almanzar, Moazzama Chaudhry, Jesse Kennedy, and Anthony Rosas

Except for Moazzma, the sole junior on the otherwise all-senior team that went to world championships last year, this team is in its first year of robotics. They managed to build one of the most accurate shooters in the league and designed a robot that performed well in the endgame objectives. They qualified for the state through their “Skills” performance and also won the “Build” and “Innovate” awards in recognition of the uniqueness and functionality of their robot.

7422C “Freshman” — Patrick Boggs, John Baronowski, Tyler Torres, Matthew Firouzi

The freshman teamed up with 7422B at the last regional tournament and made it to the qualifying brackets, where they were eventually knocked out of the competition by the top-seeded team. However, 7422C also managed to be eligible for state based on the strength of their “Skills” performance.

Teams that qualify at state championships will be eligible to compete in the VEX World Robotics Championships in Texas in May. There are more than 8,500 teams representing 45 countries worldwide, and about 10 percent of those teams come from California — historically the most competitive state for robotics after Texas.

Because of California’s immense geographical size and field of competition, four “state” tournaments in California will qualify teams for worlds. If our Burroughs are at a disadvantage because of California’s level of competition, a rule change this year may have helped our teams make it to the state level.

“We have always had regional tournaments, but in past years we saw a lot of Los Angeles-based teams travel to Bakersfield to compete with us,” said Jacotin. “There are a lot of good teams in Kern County and the central valley, but since we are no longer facing teams in other regions, I think that also helped level the playing field.”

Following the Robotic Burros’ participation in the State Championships, they will present to the Sierra Sands Unified School District Board of Education at their March 9 meeting.