Marfa’s new robotics team shines in state-wide tournament
By STERRY BUTCHER
MARFA – Oh, those brainy Shorthorns!
Marfa High School’s first-ever robotics team earned fifth place overall and a special design award at last weekend’s Texas Botball Tournament in Houston.
“They had so much fun,” teacher Benjie Rosaldo reported this week. “We need to build future leaders and train students in science, technology and math. This competition helps them develop toward those goals.”
Marfa’s team came together fast: juniors Myra Leos, Jarett Lujan, Daniel Martinez, Eileen Cordova and sophomores Vashti Armendariz and Robert Kirkpatrick. Rosaldo, who teaches three sections of high school science, learned about the Botball robotics program from a teacher friend in Presidio. In January, Rosaldo and two students went to Houston for a training and they acquired the equipment needed to participate.
In the weeks that followed, the six-member team met with Rosaldo to build prototype rockets while also juggling baseball practice, one-act play rehearsal, Science Technology Engineering and Math competition, softball games, UIL preparation and, oh yeah, homework.
“They gave up days during Spring Break and their weekend,” he said. “All last week, we stayed at school until 9pm.”
Rosaldo worked with them on computer programming, math, science, engineering, writing and presentation skills that were each required by the demonstration project.
As the competition drew near, Rosaldo and Tallie Altgelt, a fellow teacher, sponsor and driver, loaded up the kids and drove to Houston. Teacher-coach Linda Ojeda finished up a softball game in Big Lake, then toted a player to join her robotics team at the meet, arriving at 2am.
Thirteen schools competed, including teams from Marfa, Presidio, Hamilton, Gatesville, Copperas Cove, Irving, Dallas and Houston. Each team demonstrated their robot on a playing table, where the machines moved ping-pong balls around an “airport.” Marfa’s team split into their duties. Martinez and Cordova ran the robot; Armendariz and Kirkpatrick presented the team’s design and programs to the judges; and Lujan and Leos facilitated and problem-solved.
“The robots had to bring airplanes into airport,” said Rosaldo. “There were runways, luggage and a fueling area. The robot was supposed to bring them into a hangar, get luggage and stack ping-pong balls into a storage tower.”
In the seeding round, Marfa came in third. In the double elimination round, Marfa placed third again. The design won the Keep It Simple Student award for the simplest, most efficient robot. The team didn’t submit some online documentation, though, which nudged their overall finish from third to fifth, but everyone is plenty happy with the team’s effort.
“I’m very proud of them,” said Principal Graydon Hicks. “I’m thrilled. The academic progress and accomplishments are great. I’m hoping all this translates into good TAKS scores as well. All the kids and teachers have gone above and beyond required duties. They’ve done it all and done it well. It’s awesome.”
Rosaldo is already thinking ahead to next year and said he’s hearing from students who want to be involved. He sees the program building into something much bigger.
“I want to show this project to junior high and elementary kids so we can start interesting them,” he said. “We really want to involve as many kids as we can for these competitions. Next year we’ll start training early, like in September, so we won’t be cramming. And if we have enough money to bring more than one team, we will.”
Story filed under: Education