Vale High School robotics team once again clinches top honors

VALE – Gridiron success is as much a part of Vale as onions, alfalfa and the ethos of the cowboy, but during the past five years another competitive team has racked up a series of triumphs.

The ongoing success of the Vale High School robotics team may surprise some but not instructor Jim Schaffeld.

Under Schaffeld’s tutelage robotics team members captured top wins at the state robotics tournament to earn four trips to the world competition.

This year was no different and the four-person team of Landon McKrola, Xander Frates, Eli Mendieta and David Chudleigh will test their skills at the Vex Robotics World Championships in Dallas, Texas, May 5 through May 7.

McKrola, Frates, Mendieta and Chudleigh finished with the seventh highest team skills score at the VEX Oregon State Tournament in Eugene March 12 to earn a journey to Texas.

The next competition features teams from across the globe including New Zealand, Bahrain, China and from Europe.

The trip to Dallas, though, isn’t free and Schaffeld and his robotics team members are seeking donations and sponsors to help.

The Vale success came from teamwork and innovation as they started building a robot shortly after school began.

The robot is a four-wheeled apparatus made of plastic and aluminum and rubber and powered by batteries and a small central processing unit, or CPU. The robot also sports an aluminum bar used to pick up objects that weigh as much as four pounds.

Mendieta, a junior, said last week that the robot is always a work in progress.

“We haven’t finished building it and the robot we have now isn’t like what we had in the beginning,” he said.

Mendieta drives the robot remotely, while McKrola, a senior, programed the vehicle. Frates, a senior and Chudleigh, a junior, helped build the robot.

The team parlayed experience from five robotic competitions throughout the year to upgrade and modify the robot. The competitions pitted the Vale team against other robotics squads and tested the design and function of their robot in specific trials.

The trials consisted of grasping objects and moving them from one point to another inside a square arena. The robot also must function independently for a specific amount of time.

“We wrote down lessons we learned and what we needed to change,” said Chudleigh.

For McKrola, lessons learned at each competition meant regular coding upgrades for the robot.

Each of the four conveyed different emotions about the upcoming world competition.

“I am very excited to go. I’ve never been in that big a competition before,” said Mendieta.

Frates said he’s “kind of nervous” about the tournament. “It will be a big place and something to prepare for.”

Chudleigh said he believes the Dallas event will be “really fun…I am excited to put our robot against other robots.”

At the world competition, each team will test their robot in a series of skills. The matches again take place inside a square arena and showcase the robot moving or lifting objects or maneuvering through obstacles under a timeline.

Schaffeld said 11 Oregon teams qualified for the Dallas competition, which “is all problem solving, nonstop, whether its electronics or coding.”

To donate or to become a sponsor, interested individuals can contact Schaffeld at 541-473-3181 or at [email protected].

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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