Sa-BOT-age prepares for robotics Super Qualifiers

Sa-BOT-age members Tyler Vassar, Spencer Honald and Bill Burns were on the winning alliance and given the Rockwell Collins Innovate award at the Mid-Columbia and Central Oregon Championship last month in Hood River. This weekend The Dalles High School students will compete in the Super Qualifiers in Hillsboro.

In their winning alliance with SteelHead, Sa-BOT-age racked up more combined points than any robotics teams in the state.

But The Dalles High School students Spencer Honald, Tyler Vassar and Bill Burns aren’t satisfied, continuing to tweak their robot as they prepare for Super Qualifiers this weekend in Hillsboro.

Competing in the FIRST Tech Challenge Mid-Columbia and Central Oregon Championship on Jan. 16 in Hood River, Sa-BOT-age scored 296 points in the final competition of the day, topping their previous high score of 251, which was also a state record.

Sa-BOT-age takes pride in racking up points by hanging its robot from a bar at the end of a ramp, using a winch made out of a tape measure.

“There was a team that had a tape measure and we saw that working so we looked at their system and decided how we can make ours better than that,” Vassar said.

Honald added: “A lot of our ideas come from just trying to think of new stuff but some come from seeing what others do, too. It’s the same general principle but we have a unique design.”

Many of the parts, like the tape measure, tread belt and plexiglass, don’t come in a kit so they are custom made. Sa-BOT-age also has a 50-page engineering notebook and presentation board to show the judges how their robot was constructed.

At the Mid-Columbia and Central Oregon Championship, Sa-BOT-age also won the Rockwell Collins Innovate award, which goes to the team that “thinks outside the box but also has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life.”

Sa-BOT-age is working on their fifth robot this season. They finished in the middle of the pack during league play before stepping up on Jan. 16.

“Our first four tries, they weren’t so good,” Honald said. “We did better at different areas every time and we put together all of our ideas that actually worked and came up with something that works really well.”

Since their last competition, Sa-BOT-age has added a scissor lift so they can score more points by moving blocks and balls.

“There are some teams that can just hang, which is good, but there are also teams that just score blocks, we can do both,” Burns said.

Honald noted the robot that holds the world record at 320 points has a giant scissor lift.

“We’re pretty close to the world record, which is really neat,” he said.

Due to sports—Honald is on the baseball team, Vassar plays golf and Burns runs cross country and track—the guys were unable to work with the high school program and instead started their own community team. But they do get help from TDHS science teacher Ajay Rundell and even with sports and AP classes, they manage to meet four or five days a week.

Sa-BOT-age will be joined at Super Qualifiers by two other teams from The Dalles—Bazinga Bots and KillaBots as well as the Shermanators (Sherman County).

There are four super qualifiers in Oregon with 21 teams each for a total of 84. The top 42 will advance to the state championship in Portland on Feb. 27-28.

“We just want to do the best we can and move on,” Burns said.

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