Blaine’s first place robotics team designed and built this remote-controlled robot for the Technology Student Association state championships in March. It uses a movable conveyer belt to grab and lift plastic cylinders and spheres necessary to score points. Photo by Jeremy Schwartz
Blaine High School has continued its stellar performance in state Technology Student Association (TSA) competition this year, sending five students to the national championships in Nashville, Tennessee.
Seven Blaine High School students actually qualified for nationals at the TSA state competition in Bellevue in March, though only five are able to go, Blaine High School career and technical education teacher Jim Nelson said. The seven students are freshman Brayden Giffen, juniors Paul Comchoc and Andrew Crafts, and seniors Andrew Dahl, Charisse deBelen, Emily Steelquist and Abby Walters.
“We made a name for our little tiny school,” Walters said.
The state TSA competition consisted of a number of technology-related challenges, including competitions in robotics, photography and structural engineering. The TSA had 492 students registered for the entire competition, up 50 percent from last year, Nelson said. More than 5,000 students are set to compete at the national championship.
The TSA is a national, nonprofit career and technical student organization for middle and high school students with a strong interest in technology. Nelson said he started the Blaine High School chapter of the TSA in 1995, after some prodding from a student teacher of his.
“He kind of dragged me kicking and screaming, but then it hooked me,” Nelson said with a smile.
Blaine students took first place in the structural engineering, robotics, and technology bowl competitions. Comchoc, Dahl and Steelquist won the technology bowl, which consists of a series of trivia questions about technology. The first round is a 50-question, multiple-choice test, while later rounds comprise questions answered orally.
In the 17 years Blaine High School has been competing in TSA events, they have never made first place in the technology bowl.
“So that’s a pretty big deal,” Nelson said.
Two of Blaine’s robotics competition teams also qualified to go to nationals in Nashville. The state robotics competition involved 40 hours of competition with more than 30 teams from across the state battling it out. Nelson estimated between 50 and 60 teams will be competing at nationals.
Crafts was the lead designer and driver for the first-place robotics team. Three to four students design and build remote-controlled robots to compete and score points by lifting small cylinders and spheres into a cylindrical goal about four feet high.
Crafts said he went through four redesigns for the robot and spent around 48 hours building and testing it – all on the Blaine school campus.
“I’m building a whole new one [for nationals],” he said.
Crafts plans to keep the robot’s base the same but change everything else. Instead of a conveyer-belt system for manipulating the objects, he intends to construct a grasping hand and arm.
Walters and Crafts agreed team organization was the biggest challenge while at the state competition. Walters said one Blaine High School team did not know they were due for competition until five minutes before the match started.
“The [competition] schedule itself is tough to keep track of,” Walters said.
Though the challenges seem daunting, Blaine’s TSA students are ready, willing and able to continue the school’s strength in the robotics arena. Two Blaine High School graduates, Cody Hollander and Vincent Lee, took first place in the robotics competition last year.
The national TSA competition starts on June 22 in Nashville and runs until June 25. Blaine High School’s competitors leave June 21.