Aspen High robotics team takes state, with Houston up next |

Aspen High robotics team takes state, with Houston up next

Staff report
From left to right, Black Forest team members Alex Appleby, Andrew Seybold and Gavin Heil competed at the state robotics competition Feb. 8 in Denver, where their team claimed the overall title and qualified for the world championships set April 15-18 in Houston. Black Forest became Aspen High School’s first robotics team to win the overall state title.
Jeannie Seybold/Special to The Aspen Times

Aspen High School’s robotics program is riding high after a strong performance Feb. 8 at the regional competition in Denver, where one of its teams claimed first place overall and now has its sights set on April’s world competition in Houston.

The triumphant team, Black Forest, along with its alliance partner, won the FIRST Tech Challenge held at Mountain Range High School. The victory marked Aspen High’s first overall win in a state robotics competition. Aspen High was the only school represented with three teams competing at the state level.

Black Forest scored a world-record 149 points in the competition, according to a news release. The point total was thanks to the team’s stacking 11 stones, a mighty accomplishment in robotics.

Black Forest isn’t just making waves on a state level; it’s also ranked No. 9 in the world, according to FIRST Updates Now.

Parent John Seybold, an adviser to the team for the past five years, has been instrumental in the program’s success. As the co-founder of Guidewire Software, Seybold’s technological knowledge has rubbed off on the robotics team members.

“I’ve had a career in software design, which is a huge component in the competition,” Seybold said. “I enjoy teaching these kids how to program and watch them create something they never thought they could. They are incredibly driven and ambitious. They want this so much.”

Also mentoring the students has been high school teacher Josh Anderson.

“We’re the kind of students who like technology, math, science, and solving puzzles,” said Alex Appleby, the Black Forest team captain. “We are naturally interested but also competitive. We got a taste of the competition at the top level last year and we made really good connections with some of the best teams.”

The state of Colorado categorizes the Aspen School District as a small, rural district, but Black Forest, along with the help of their advisers, has competed against large teams from all over the world. The Aspen Education Foundation is closing in on the completion of an endowment that will fund the program in perpetuity and allow other students to experience learning through competitions, problem solving and teamwork.

“Even though we’ve won championships, we’re still an unknown team,” Appleby said. “But we compete best when we’re the underdogs.”

The world championship is scheduled April 15 to 18 and is expected to attract 70,000 attendees and teams from more than 70 countries.