As March Madness comes to a close for the high school basketball season, another competition has students in Montpelier excited.
The high school is getting ready to send several students to Marion, Ohio, for three days in April for the National Robotics Competition. The team has several seniors who want to come home with gold.
The team’s advisor is Lester Orndorff, a fourth-year teacher at the school.
The team has brought home some bronze medals in recent national competition, but the seniors are hungry for more.
“We have (four) seniors coming back and they enjoy the competition,” Orndorff said. “They want to bring back at least one gold.”
The nationals are a loose gathering of teams from across the nation, Orndorff said. There will be college teams from various tech schools mixed in as well. There are no worlds, so this competition is it for all the teams, he said.
The team is limited only by the school’s budget and the generous donation from CK Technologies.
“We completely build from scratch,” Orndorff said. “If something goes wrong, then they fix it.”
The competition has several individual events, but others have multiple students in the construction process, but only one person pushing a button or controlling the robot.
Some have two robots who try to score a goal. Other teams often play defense and to win by having the longest shot in a shootout format.
Montpelier will be aiming to win in regulation with an aggressive offense, Orndorff said.
Other contests include robot sumo, combat bots and rescue robots, which requires a robot to climb a 45-degree scope.
Orndorff tells his students they are only limited by their imagination and the budget. At the regionals, the team has brought back two awards for the past two years.
The class is popular and is capped at 15 due to materials, he said.
CK Technologies does their best to find everything they want or need, Orndorff said. The company sees their donations as an investment in their future, he said.
“At least one robotics student has come back to work for them,” Orndorff said.
As popular as the robotics team is, the same cannot be said about the school’s Science Olympiad team. Where at one time there were two classes, this year’s team dwindled to only 12 students.
The school finished 16th out of 22 teams at a competition in Defiance March 18. One two-student team finished second in optics, Orndorff said. Since only the top six teams advance, the season came to an end, he said.
The team lost a lot of senior talent from last year and that loss was evident in this year’s squad.
“It was a void that didn’t get filled,” Orndorff said. “The first two years I had two classes and took two teams.”
Orndorff thinks it is vital to get the junior high students excited about science, especially since it’s the first letter of the STEM program the school is teaching.
James Pruitt may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org