Saline Middle Schoolers are excelling at robotics


The Saline Middle School teams accepting their State Invitations. photo courtesy of Saline Middle School FTC Robotics

The results of a regional robotics competition show just how strong of a FIRST Robotics program Saline Area Schools has.

Two of the middle school teams recently broke a world record for most points scored during a FIRST Technical Challenge (FTC) Match. The Sun Times News reached out to the middle school teams to learn more about this. FIRST means For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

Jeroen Spitael, Lead Mentor for Saline Middle School FTC Robotics, said “Our Saline teams have been doing great this year.”

The middle school has three teams:

Team 10644 – Cybugs

Team 10645 - Hornet Hackers

Team 15555 - S.W.A.R.M.

Spitael said the teams have attended multiple events so far this season, and all three will be going to the State Championships.

Most recently, he said they attended the Michigan South Central Robotics League Tournament.

“Our teams took the top spot in both divisions (10645 for Consumers Division, and 10644 for the Energy Division) and won their Division playoffs,” Spitael said. “That meant Saline faced off against Saline for the finals. In the end, Team 10644 with Team 15555 (Saline) and 19925 (Jackson) won the event. In the process, Teams 10644 and 15555 set the World Record High Score (to date) for the CenterStage game.”

All 10 highest scores to date are held by Michigan teams, including three scores held by Saline alliances, according to Spitael.

“This just shows how strong of a FIRST Robotics program we have in the state, with support from the Michigan Department of Education, and wonderful sponsors throughout the communities,” Spitael said.

The Saline teams also attended the Bedford Qualifier a week before, and finished ranked 1, 2 and 3 - leading to a similar playoff scenario where eventually 2 of the Saline teams faced the 3rd one.

In explaining the robotics challenges, Spitael said the challenge, every year, is played on a 12 feet by 12 feet field in an alliance format of 2 vs. 2 teams. This year's challenge is called “CenterStage” and the main objective is to deliver “pixels” to the backstage. Arranging the pixels in a mosaic format earns bonus points, Spitael said, and so does being able to fill the board to reach higher levels.

Two of the Saline Middle School teams on the field of competition. photo courtesy of Saline Middle School FTC Robotics

Noting a unique thing this year, Spitael said Saline also has three completely different robots, “meeting the game challenge in novel ways.”

“This has been recognized with multiple Design and Innovation awards along the way,” says Spitael.

In addition, the middle school teams have been helping a couple of 1st/2nd year teams with some of the team members helping out the FLL (4th and 5th grade) teams. They recently held a recruiting event for third graders that could join FLL next year.

Looking ahead, Teams 10645 and 15555 will be attending the State Championship SE this coming weekend, and a week later, Team 10644 will be attending the State Championship NW.

Good Luck!

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