Simply the best

By Bob Satnan For the Democrat

April 25, 2014

ST. LOUIS — The first thing to know about the FIRST World Championship is that wins and losses are secondary to the honor of competing and the overall experience the event provides for students from all over the world — including Sedalia.

For the past two days, Smith-Cotton High School’s Team SCREAM has been battling it out with more than 400 squads from around the globe to determine who has built the best robots. Competition has been tough, and Team SCREAM has a winning record but has taken more losses in qualifying matches than it had hoped. Still, the opportunity to learn from and interact with great young minds has been beneficial and fun.

“It has been amazing to meet people from all over the world and all across America,” said lead scout Caitlin Williams, who is charged with learning about other teams’ strengths and strategies to help Team SCREAM build the best three-team alliance for competition.

That job is harder here than it has been at regional competitions because of the increased number of teams and higher quality of the participants.

“There are a lot of good teams, so it is harder to find which ones have the better qualities to fill the spot that we need them to,” she said.

Team mentor Michael Wright, the instructional technology teacher at S-C, said he knew the team would be facing the “best of the best” and that he has to remind himself that the team is in just its second year.

“This is a good status check for us,” he said. “This is a chance to ask, ‘Where are we at?’ I have to say I am pleased, we are holding up. We have had good strategy and scouting. The big thing is that the teams we look up to, the teams that have been around and have been successful, they know who we are and tell us they are noticing what we are doing. That means a lot to the team.”

Pit crew member Austin Alexander didn’t know how to use any tools before he joined the team this year, but he learned quickly, as he was charged with building the collector arm that allows the robot to retrieve the ball used in the game. The trip to St. Louis has boosted his interest in the program.

“We have to come back (next year),” Alexander said. ‘We need to set that as a goal.”

And while he admits that will prove to be a challenge, “This year was hard, too, but we worked our way through it.”

Alexander’s experience is just what Wright is hoping his students will get from competing against such elite competition.

“I hope the kids are excited. We came here to win, but my goal was for this to be inspirational,” Wright said, “that they would see this and get more involved in the team next year.”

For Williams, a senior, this year has been an inspiration on its own.

“I’m just really enjoying the experience,” Williams said, “the way it is bringing so many people together.”