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Pioneer Robotics Team

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 A team of 20 students from Pioneer High School placed third in the FIRSTRobotics Sacramento Regional Tournament March 13-15 at UC Davis. The Pioneer Team, ‘the Apes of Wrath’, designed, built and tested a robot in just six weeks per the rules of the robotics tournament. As part of the competition, teams form alliances and work with other competitors during portions of the event. Pioneer students formed an alliance with the Girl Scouts of Northern California for three matches. They were eventually defeated by the number two alliance by just five points, finishing third overall out of 54 teams.

Robotics tournaments challenge students to create a robot with a maximum height of five feet and weight of no more than120 pounds. Robots must perform specific tasks both autonomously and via an operator using a wireless radio system. FIRST Robotics releases a game challenge to all teams that specifies the tasks the robots must complete. This year, robots had to pick up a ball, launch it over a truss and shoot it through goals to earn points. “Robotics gives students a real understanding of why they learn the math they learn,” says Pioneer Robotics coach Lonny Weissman. “It’s the real world, and theory goes out the door as students grapple with angle and force.”

The Pioneer Robotics team consists of 48 students who write a business plan and manage their own team and budget. Students seek funding from Silicon Valley corporations and individual donors. This year, they raised $6,000 and received a $10,000 donation from a personal friend of coach Weissman. Former Pioneer team members returned to help construct the robot using equipment from a business they formed prior to graduation.

The Pioneer Education Foundation helps the team with managing their funds.

“The Pioneer High team did great,” says co-caption Daniel Crider, “but we couldn’t have done it without all of the team members in the pit, stands and out in the field.”The Pioneer team, along with teams from Leland High, San José High, and Willow Glen High, will compete April 3-5 at the Silicon Valley Regional at the San José State Event Center.“Robotics hits every aspect of the district’s mission to provide students with 21st century skills,” says Weissman, a retired Pioneer math teacher. “It’s a marvelous extra curricular program.”

Team members who competed in the First Robotics Sacramento Regional Tournament are: Patrick Tierney, Daniel Crider, Kayla Kitagawa, Shelby Swartz, Meytal Hirshberg, Ariel Lines, Spencer McFadden, Kathryn Poeschel, Devan Lad, Sean Kelker, Mark Liebscher, Colton Donnelly, McKay Duffin, Peter Fowels, Annie Hall, John Tierney, Brandon Wilson, Wasay Anwar, Mark Nazaradeh, and Tim Sandoval.

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