Illinois robotics team heads to state

The Gear Grinders robotics team are Alison Hughes, John Greifzu, Logan Seesser, Rian Ryron, Jenna Alstead, Jake Hartman, Jason Wambergue and Xander Seesser. The team is coached by Stacy Gates, Dan Portz and Chris Seesser.Submitted photo

FULTON, Ill. — River Bend School District's Gear Grinders maneuvered past 23 other teams to finish second in a FIRST Tech Challenge competition Saturday, sending the team to state.

The Gear Grinders earned the fifth qualifying spot to advance to the two-day state competition the end of this month, River Bend FTC Robotics Coach Stacy Gates said this week.

FIRST, an organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, sponsors the competition each year, challenging students in grades 7-12 to design, build, program and operate robots in head-to-head competition.

The students are guided by adult coaches and mentors to use science, technology, engineering and math skills and work as a team, FIRST says. The robot kits are reusable and can be coded using a variety of levels of Java-based programing.

Gates' students are from Fulton High School and River Bend Middle School. "This years competition is called Rover Ruckus," Gates said. "Two alliances compete against another to collect minerals and place them into the cargo holes of the lander.

"The matches are each 2 min and 30 seconds," Gates said. "The first 30 seconds is all autonomous. The students cannot drive the robot during this portion. The robot moves around the playing field based on a pre-programmed code the students write."

The final two minutes of the competition, a pair of students control the robot's movements and functions.

Gear Grinders is sponsored by Dr. Wilkin's Dentistry, Company One & RJS Electronics, First Trust and Savings Bank, LyondellBasell Industries, Central Bank, Custom-Pack, Archer Daniels, Agri-King, JoCarroll Energy, MetFrom, Arconic, Exelon Crop, and Dollars for Doers, Gates said.