Big bots battle at regional competition (with video)

Disc toss, climbing among tasks local teams' machines do at event

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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It isn't always enough to eliminate potential problems. Sometimes you just have to solve them.

Those are among the approaches employed by four Clark County teams this weekend in a regional contest for tech-savvy teens.

The event pits student-built robots in a disc-shooting competition that opened Friday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

The 59 entrants include four local teams: the Green Wrenches, from Evergreen, Heritage, Mountain View and Union high schools; the StormBots, from Vancouver's Skyview High; the Mean Machine, representing Camas, Washougal and Hockinson high schools; and the CloverBots 4-H Club.

The competition continues Saturday, with qualifying matches from 9 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and final rounds from 1:30-4:30 p.m.

Top finishers qualify for the national championships, April 24-27 in St. Louis. This year's challenge is "Ultimate Ascent," a robot version of Frisbee golf. "Ascent" refers to an additional portion of the challenge, designing a machine that also can scale a pyramid-shaped jungle gym.

Green Wrench veteran Josh Pigman said that their team will try a less-is-better path to nationals.

"You have to choose: a shooter or a climber," Pigman said. "We decided to go for a shooter, and we didn't have enough time for a climber."

Still, the Green Wrenches had to do some disc-shooting trouble-shooting Friday when their robot malfunctioned. It turned out to be a faulty connector.

"We figured out the problem, and we're good to go," the Mountain View junior said.

All the teams got the same sets of parts a couple of months ago when Evergreen High hosted this area's challenge kickoff. How the teams assemble the parts is up to them.

"We get calls from coaches who say there are no instructions" in the box, Debra Mumm-Hill, Pacific Northwest director of the competition, said at the January kickoff. "There are no instructions."

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.