Pirate robotics team climbs to the top.

April 1, 2022

Pirate robotics team climbs to the top.

Pirate News is a presentation of Hart Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

HART — The Hart High School Robotics Team recently captured a district title and may have a shot at a state championship.

The robotics program began at Hart during the 2015-16 school year. The team is coached by superintendent Mark Platt and high school teacher Mark Saari.

The team, called #6128 Team MOTOR, competed at Muskegon Orchard View High School to win districts. Allied with partners from Grand Rapids Forest Hills Schools and Grand Rapids West Catholic High School, Hart swept through the playoffs undefeated to nab the win.  

With the victory, the team is ranked 66th out of 468 teams in the state . 

“There is a definite chance that we could qualify for the state championship which will be held April 13-16 at Saginaw Valley State University,” said Platt. Other district competitions are currently underway, and once those are completed, the Hart team will find out if it’s going to the state level.

Team members include: lead builder/engineer/team captain Andrew Carter, driver Alan Stephenson, Deegan Symons, Ethan Schaner, Gumaro Villeda and Clayton Riley. 

“Our driver, Alan, learned how to drive the robot in a quick amount of time and learned how to drive it very well.”

“There is a six-week competition season, and each week is an event,” said Platt. “As a team, you participate in two events.”

The “game reveal” occurs at the beginning of January, and teams begin building their robots. 

“Every year, the robot has to climb something. Every year, it has to be able to shoot or deliver cargo to a high goal or low goal.”

“When the season is over, if you’re in the top 160 teams, you go to championships at Ford Field.” Winners emerging from the statewide competitions move onto “Worlds” competition. 

Drivers use Xbox controllers to maneuver the robots. Hart’s team successfully climbed 30 out of 32 times, said Platt.

This year’s robot was aptly named Scrappy Doo, because it is made of many scrap parts. “We ordered the main kit, but the rest of it we scrapped off the old robot.” Re-using the old parts saves money. 

The exercises teach problem solving, cooperation and teamwork.

The dynamics of a robotics contest is much different than a sporting event. “Coopertition” is a robotics term, meaning that teams cooperate yet compete with one another. “A team that you may be playing against also very well may be helping you.”

Participation has steadily grown in the novel program until the last two years due to COVID-19 restrictions. This year is the first year that no girls participated.

“A ton of kids on this team end up going to ASM Tech Early College (at West Shore Community College).”

The Pirates were honored to be selected to compete with top teams Forest Hills and West Catholic. Platt said members of the allied teams said they chose Hart because of its solid defense. “They had come to the conclusion that the one team they did not want to play was us. Basically, they needed an offensive line, and it was us. They had played against us in some preliminary rounds, and we were a thorn in their side.

“When they said, ‘We’d like to invite Team 6128,’ Mark Saari and I almost fell out of the bleachers.”

The robotics team uses a room at the Elbridge Township Hall, which is the former Elbridge Elementary School, to build the robot. Grant funds pay for parts and equipment.

“Fortunately, due to the Carters, they were able to work with the township on a room.

“We have a banner to hang up on the gym wall next to our old banner, and the kids were recognized today in an assembly.”

Many Hart students who have been on the robotics team went on to pursue successful careers in science, technology and engineering and math (STEM). 

Appletree Automotive sponsors the Hart team, and the district is looking for additional area businesses interested in sponsorships. “We are competing against teams that are sponsored by Stryker Pharmaceutical, NASA, Whirlpool and Ford.” 

School board members Chad Coker and Andy Carter have been involved in the program.

Several students, like four-year robotics veteran Tyler Coker, return to offer their expertise as mentors for the team, said Platt. Spectatorship is growing at competitions, too. 

“It’s a great program. We’ve seen a huge number of our kids go onto very cool post high school jobs and education.”

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