A robot named Atlas is taking some Clark County students to Houston, Texas this week.
After winning the Pacific Northwest District FIRST Robotics Championship over spring break, Team Mean Machine emerged undefeated this year in district competition. Now the team, officially known as FIRST Robotics Team 2471, will spend Wednesday to Sunday in Houston competing with 400 other teams from around the world.
“People around the world have been watching our matches (online) and are expecting a lot from us, and I think we’ll deliver,” said team member and Hockinson High School junior John Lange.
Atlas the robot also has won the industrial design award in all three district meets this season, which were hosted at Wilsonville, Lake Oswego and Portland.
FIRST Robotics teams receive their rulebook at the beginning of January and are allowed seven weeks to build and program their robots. They prepare the machine to accomplish a variety of tasks, such as tossing blocks with accuracy and lifting other robots.
“The kids spend easily 15 to 20 hours a week in those seven weeks,” said Michelle Lange, a team chaperone and John’s mom.
Then the robot is boxed up until just before competitions begin, when the team has several hours to make tweaks.
John credits many factors for the team’s success this year:
“It’s partially because we’ve been around so long, and part of it goes to our sponsors and mentors constantly helping us learn and giving us resources to push our boundaries,” he said. “I think part of it is our dedicated student base. They give up being on the basketball team or other activities for robotics.”
The team, which has been active for 11 years, is a collaboration between Camas, Hockinson and Washougal school districts and has approximately 30 members. The nearly three dozen sponsors make their efforts possible.