Aspen’s Robo Yetis Put Engineering prowess to the test | AspenTimes.com

Aspen’s Robo Yetis Put Engineering prowess to the test

Caroline Hanson's robotics classroom looked a bit like a war zone this past week — tape marked off areas of the floor; metal rods, bolts and other bits of machinery overflowed from plastic bins; computers and laptops hummed at an intense clip. And the "soldiers" — all members of the Aspen High School Robo Yetis — were hard at work throwing around terms like java script, cryptoboxes and "the autonomous," while testing and retesting and re-retesting their robots' every move.

"Our main strategy in building is kind of one of trial and error, because this is most of our first years doing this," said Aspen High School junior Joshua Uhlfelder. "Often we build something and we figure out that it's not going to work for a reason … but we don't create something new then, we just build off of that."

Today, the 12-member robotics team will test their mettle at the First Tech Challenge state competition in Denver; the Robo Yetis qualified for states after last weekend's regional competition by taking first place in the main rounds of the robot game and being the second place alliance overall in the finals. The team also won the Rockwell-Collins Innovative Design Award.

While the Aspen schools are traditionally well-represented at robotics' competitions in the younger grades, the high school fields just one team. This year, it comprises eight freshmen, two juniors and two seniors (captain Freja Perin and Hannah Freeman). Many of the competitors got their start in middle school, Hanson said.

"That experience with First Lego League has paid off," said Hanson, noting that while the components of the challenge are different at the high school level, "the philosophy of teamwork and having fun" remains the same.

Hanson also believes having a younger team bodes well for the future of the Robo Yetis — and also for today's competition.

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"It's competitive, that's for sure, but these kids have been working really hard," she said, adding that high school robotics is a club, not a class, so students dedicate after-school hours to being part of the team. "But things are looking good with so many younger kids; plus, it's good for kids to really do this hands-on work to see if going to college for engineering or building or whatever is what they're really interested in."

If the team wins at the state level, the next step is the super regionals. Last year the Robo Yetis were one of five Colorado teams to go to that competition.

jmcgovern@aspentimes.com