Marana High School’s robotics team is the 10th-best rookie team in the world. Team 7214, AKA Tiger-OPS, won this distinction after competing at Northern Arizona University last month.
After 12 round of competing against 60 other robotics teams, Tiger-OPS also became the top ranked “vault” team in Arizona. The rookie team returned from Flagstaff with a lot to celebrate, even if they didn’t come in first overall.
“A lot of people think it’s very cool,” Sarah Flynn, MHS senior and president of the robotics club said. “Everyone said they wanted to join once they saw our robot start driving.”
Tiger-OPS belongs to the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics organization and only started late last year. MHS sent out a message asking if any students were interested in joining a new robotics team. At the inaugural meeting, 78 showed up.
“It turns out there was a lot of interest.” Cassi LaFaye, team mentor and MHS teacher said.
In the end, about 25 students joined the team. They started to build the robot itself this January and, in just six weeks, it was ready for action. In that short time, the students built and programmed a four-wheeled robot that is capable of picking up objects and putting them in goals.
Robots compete on teams of three versus three (three different school teams are randomly put into groups) and fight to see which team can score the most goals. The first 15 seconds of the rounds are autonomous, so the bots have to be able to perform both automatically and remote controlled.
“To win these competitions, it’s not just about your robot,” LaFaye said. “The judges rank the whole team, and can interview anyone on the team at any time, so there has to be a whole lot of communication between all the students.”
By teaching electronics, mechanical engineering and computer-aided design, the robotics club serves as a next step for the computer-immersion training that has become a focus of many local elementary schools. In addition to the “build team” of more scientifically-inclined students, other students on the team manage marketing and business aspects. These responsibilities include planning future events, finding sponsors and managing the budget.
“It’s an expensive club,” LaFaye said. “But it works out.”
Luckily, FIRST Robotics awarded the team with “Rookie Grants” equaling $10,000. In addition, the team secured sponsorships with multiple local and international businesses, all listed on the back of their team T-shirts.
The team’s next step is a trip to a Houston invitational championship for rookie teams on June 28. Beyond that, the team hopes to host their own showcase later this year in November. This would allow for schools both near and far to travel to Marana High to compete and share their mutual love of robotics.
“I had a lot of fun in our first year of robotics,” MHS sophomore Faith Curran said. “I may not be a robot driver or a programmer, but I help with marketing and media. I enjoy giving my time to robotics, and I’m excited to come back next year.”
In addition to being ranked as the 10th best rookie team in the world according to FIRST robotics, Tiger-OPS was also ranked at number 124 out of more than 7,200 FIRST Robotics teams in the world, at any level of experience.
“We started so late in the season but the team’s amount of learning and success so fast has been phenomenal,” team coach AnnMarie Condes said. “Everything with the students has just been great.”
The Marana High School robotics team offers free STEM Saturday events for all MUSD elementary-age students. The next STEM Saturday will be at Marana High School from 10 to 12 p.m., Saturday, April 28. The theme is, of course, robots.