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Robotics Wins Prestigious Excellence Award

By Raegan Theisen


On March 10-11, the Pierce High robotics team attended the Nebraska State VEX Robotics Championship in Omaha, held at Omaha North where there were a total of 48 teams competing.  

Senior Dalton Svoboda, comments on this experience saying, “Obviously, earning a spot at the World Robotics Tournament was very awesome, but I would say my favorite parts of this weekend were the times when we weren’t at the meet. Staying in the hotel and eating out together were both awesome experiences to have with my teammates. I did love seeing all the competitive robots in one place finally and seeing all the people that I met throughout the year for what could have been the last time. Luckily, we will get to see them a couple more times. On another note, I think our team did very well at the competition. I mean we were very close to going undefeated, we beat the best team in the state, we put up the fourth highest driving score, and we are fifth in the state for skills. Our team has improved immensely this year. That is what our early mornings were for. They paid off in the end. Sacrificing sleep turned into a trip to Dallas, Texas. Lastly, I would like to shout out Sammy, Marshall, and others from the 5155E Cereal Killers. They were the ones that got us into the state tournament initially. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to pull off the tournament win in the end, but I have much respect and love for their young team and know they will do great things in the future.”

Pierce had two teams competing this weekend. The first team was ATOM13, who consisted of  Travis Emory, Bode Hoffmann, Tate Reinke, Matthew Steffen, and Dalton Svoboda. The second team was Running On Empty and that team consisted of Bo Bockelman, Camden Jansen, Christian Nordby, Brentyn Rampone, and Amber Shefl.

It is not too easy to earn a spot in the state championship, but two Pierce teams were able to do it. ATOM13 earned their spot by winning the Excellence Award and being the tournament champion at the O'Neill robotics tournament in January. Running on Empty earned a spot by having a skills score in the top half of all the VEX Robotics teams in the state. There are about 100 teams in Nebraska.

The VEX robotics competition game for this year is named Spin Up. It is played on a 12’x12’ square field. Two alliances – one “red” and one “blue” – composed of two teams each, compete in matches consisting of a 15 second autonomous period, followed by a 1:45 driver controlled period. The object of the game is to attain a higher score than the opposing alliance by scoring discs in goals, owning rollers, and covering field tiles at the end of the match.

At the state competition on Friday, March 10, there were inspection and skill challenges. A skills score consists of two parts, a driver score and an autonomous (auton) score.  Both teams competed in this portion of the event.  Teams complete three driver and three auton runs, take the best score from each and combine to make the overall skills score.  Running on Empty has some mechanical issues and completed the driver portion only.  ATOM13 posted a score of 292, good enough for a fifth place in the skills competition. 

On Saturday, March 11 there were team interviews, qualification matches, alliance selection, and finals.

Team interviews consist of teams keeping a team notebook from the moment they begin the season in August to the day of the current competition. Teams record all design, programming, and game strategies with the continued engineering process as the key method. Teams submit this notebook upon arrival and judges use this along with a team interview to determine several judges' awards such as design, innovation, judges, and excellence.

Qualification matches mean teams are randomly assigned an alliance partner for each match.  There were six alliance matches to determine the rank for the finals. Running On Empty had some great close matches but their rank was not quite good enough to make the finals. The team made great progress throughout the season and created a competitive robot. ATOM13 finished with a rank of 8th in qualifying, finishing 5-1. They were headed for 6-0 but their alliance partner shot out of the arena, which means their partner's end game could not be counted.

Finally, there were finals and awards. ATOM13 selected the Cereal Killers team from Cross County for the finals. The alliance won their first match in the round of 16, 159-114. The round of eight proved to be a heartbreaker as one of the strands for the ATOM13 end game bounced out of the arena for an automatic disqualification. That meant waiting for the tourney portion to end and the announcement of awards before knowing if they would qualify for Worlds. 

The Nebraska region is allowed to award ten spots to Worlds from the state tournament. If a team or teams win more than one award (tourney win or judges awards), the spot is given to the next best skills score. As awards were announced, the ATOM13 skills score was good enough to get a spot. However, it was not needed as the final award, the most prestigious Excellence Award, was awarded to ATOM13, earning them their spot in the VEX World Tournament. 

Key criteria of the Excellence Award are: Be at or near the top of all engineering notebook rubric rankings, exhibit a high-quality team interview, be ranked in the top 10 or top 30% of teams (whichever is greater) at the conclusion of qualifying matches, be ranked in the top 5 or top 20% of teams (whichever is greater) at the conclusion of the robot skills challenges if robot skills challenges are offered at the event, be a candidate in consideration for other judged awards, demonstrate a student-centered ethos, and exhibit positive team conduct, good sportsmanship, and professionalism.

The robotics team coach, Treva Dostal, comments on the weekend saying, “Earning spots at the Nebraska State Robotics Tournament requires dedication and determination. The Running on Empty team showed tremendous growth earning their first state tournament appearance, and I know they are already looking forward to the game announcement for the 23-24 season. ATOM13 has two more big events. Their incredible work ethic, teamwork, and desire will bring them much success in their remaining events. I am so proud of Pierce High Robotics.”

The next competition dates for ATOM13 are at the 2023 CREATE U.S. Open Robotics Championship with 200 teams from around the world in Council Bluffs, Iowa, March 23-25, and the 2023 VEX Robotics World Championship with up to 600 teams from around the world in Dallas, Texas, April 25-27.




Pierce Public Schools 201 N. Sunset St. Pierce, NE  68767

402.329.6217 Fax: 402.329.4678

This institution is an equal opportunity provider.

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