Austin Miller and Sydney Bell are headed to Denver with their robotics team.

J.D. Pooley | Sentinel-Tribune

PEMBERVILLE – Thirteen Eastwood Local Schools students left for Denver Friday morning to compete in a regional robotics competition.

The district’s robotics team will join 525 middle and high school students from six states at the Denver BEST Robotics Regional Championship.

VIDEO: Eastwood robotics team is competing at regional event

The team qualified for the trip by taking several top spots at the Bowling Green State University BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) robotics competition in November.

According to high school Principal Jim Kieper, Eastwood’s team placed second overall in BEST; they were beat by a high school team from Indianapolis.

The team, which consists of middle and high school students, placed second in robotics and claimed BEST marketing presentation, BEST exhibit and interview and second place for BEST T-shirt.

They also won sportsmanship and school spirit, and team building, Kieper said.

Teams also were judged on their engineering notebook, which documents their design process.

The scoring for that is really big in points, said Sydney Bell, who leads the marketing aspects for the team. She said Eastwood placed fourth in this area.

The competition provides each team an identical kit of equipment and parts, a set of game rules, and gives them six weeks to design, build, and test a remote-controlled robot with the goal of outperforming other robots.

Eastwood freshman Austin Miller said their robot, named Oiler 3.0, has undergone a number of adaptations since the BGSU competition.

“This robot is very different from our BEST robot,” agreed Bell, who is an eighth grader.

They added golf balls as wheels to cut down on the friction from the carpeting and decreased the diameter on the remaining two wheels to allow more power, said Miller, who is a driver for the team.

A new arm, which is used to knock items off towers into boxes, also was changed. That alone cut at least one minute off their time, Miller said.

“Every second counts,” Bell added.

The competition allows three minutes for a team’s robot to maneuver and distribute circular pegs, move boxes into place and then use the arm and its pulley system to knock items along the course into the boxes.

The driver uses a remote control to handle the robot.

Eastwood built its on course for practice; only one other local team did that. All other teams didn’t see the course until their practice time at the BGSU event.

Miller said the team, once in Denver, will have four hours to practice, along with the 23 other teams.

“It’s all about how fast you can move the arm, how fast you can move the boxes, and how well you can do,” he said. “If you can’t do it well, there’s no reason to try.”

Everyone on the programming team had to learn new skills, Bell said.

“It is totally new for a lot of people,” since there are a lot of middle schoolers on the team this year, she said.

Bell said as part of the marketing team she is improving her public speaking skills.

“There’s something here for everyone,” Bell said. “I mean, I don’t touch the robot, I only talk about it.”

Miller said that when he was 10, he helped with the competition at BGSU by running the scores back and forth. When he entered sixth grade, he talked to his dad, Patrick, about it and they approached Kieper with the idea of starting the robotics club.

He said the first year there were six members. Now they have more than 40.

While in Denver, the team plans on visiting some hot springs and the Buffalo Bill Museum, Miller said.

They are flying back Monday following two days of competition.

Kieper reported at the November board of education meeting that team members toured the Home Depot Distribution Center to see how robots work in the real world. Home Depot is a team sponsor.

If the interest in the club stays high, there is another contest that starts in January; it costs $5,000.

The current contest kit is free, Kieper said.

At the time of the meeting, almost $9,000 had been committed to help send students to Denver, and a sponsor donated miles to fly the students there and back.

The team also qualified for the regional competition held in Pennsylvania last year.

There is no national competition.