Who knew March mayhem made its way to Cleveland this year?
The popular college basketball tournament seemed like the most appropriate comparison for the 11th annual Buckeye Regional FIRST Robotics Competition that invaded Cleveland State University’s Wolstein Center Thursday through Saturday. It produced the same brand of buzzer-beating jump shots, bracket-style matchups, exuberant cheering sections, dancing mascots and speakers that blared LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”
Instead of skilled college students taking the court, the FIRST competition featured 59 robots sinking basketball shots and wowing a packed stadium. High school students from Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Canada controlled the robots with the use of joysticks and, in some instances, Xbox Kinect. Most of the teams began building and perfecting their robots shortly after New Year’s Day.
“This program is great for kids,” said Jeannette P. Owens, a spokeswoman for NASA, one of the program’s four partners. “It’s really the STEM field ‑ trying to get students motivated in science, technology, engineering and math.”
Most schools brought 20 to 25 students, with three, usually seniors, manning the robots behind a set of miniature basketball hoops. During Saturday morning’s seeding matches, officials grouped three schools together to form one alliance. While two alliances faced off, the six individual schools taking the court were racking up points for their own benefit.
Teams near Columbus, New York and Ontario largely dominated the final top 10 rankings.
The team, which created “Noble Savage,” had at one point climbed to 14th place and finished 27th overall.
“Being a rookie team, we’re doing really good,” freshman Sam Keyes said. “There’s some really good competition here. It’s exciting.”
Keyes said she enjoyed the camaraderie she built with freshman Greg Huba and sophomore Ben Hursh. The trio plans on using the weekend’s experience for future competitions.