By Bill McCaughey
For The Fort Bend Star
In front of 2,300 robot fans at the FIRST Robotics Lone Star Central Regional, the Stafford Spartans robotics team, in only its second year of competition, rallied in the final round of qualifying to reach the 14th seeding slot, but faded in their last two matches and finished 30th.
Under the selection criteria, teams need to be in the top 24 slots to have a good chance to move into the championship round.
“We were ranked 14th with two matches to go but we couldn’t finish,” Stafford team leader Frank Hoang said. “We were able to go out there against some of the best teams and we were able to compete and score points. This has been a real learning experience for us.”
In the competition, alliances, composed of three teams, could score points by moving autonomously, shooting balls into a goal, picking up plastic gears and delivering them to a goal, and finally by climbing a three-foot rope.
“We weren’t able to position the robot for climbing,” team captain and driver Leonel Avellaneda said. “We needed to center the robot on the rope to distribute the weight evenly, and we just couldn’t do it. So we had several matches where we failed to climb. Other than that, the robot did a really great job. We were able to pick up gears and score some points.”
This year Stafford had 19 students on the robotics team.
“This is the future for kids,” Stafford parent Sally Garza said. “As a club mom, I try to support the team in any way I can. I transport them and make sure they don’t go hungry during the practices and competitions. I also act as watchdog with the administration to make sure the sponsorship funding gets distributed in a timely manner. Isabella, my daughter, takes great pride in being a part of this team. It is her favorite activity.”
The Spartans have one more chance at qualifying for the FIRST World Championship, which is in Houston in late April, when they compete in San Antonio in two weeks.
“This competition really helped us,” Avellaneda said. “We saw a lot of good techniques that were really cool, and that will help us get better.”