Spartan Robotics on a winning streak

Student robotics team faces steep competition in Silicon Valley; next competition on April 4-5 in San Jose

The robotics team at Mountain View High School went undefeated at the Sacramento regional competition last month. Running off the momentum of their last win, the student team will be heading to the Silicon Valley Regional this week in preparation for the national championship in late April.

Spartan Robotics, or Team 971, remained the only undefeated team out of the 55 registered at the Sacramento regional. The competition is the first time students get to test out their robots in a big competition and fix any unforeseen problems. Aside from a few glitches and loose electrical connections, things went smoothly for the team, according to Wyn Schuh, head mentor for Spartan Robotics.

In the competition, robotics teams form "alliances" and try to score more points in a constantly changing landscape. This year, the game involves a 24-inch exercise ball. Students try to score points by launching the ball into two sets of goals -- one up high and one low -- with their robots. Teams get more points the more they assist one another to score, so there's a heavy emphasis on teamwork.

"It's exciting and there's a lot of action going on," Schuh said.

The robot designed and constructed by Spartan Robots for this year's game is called Mammoth. The robot is named not for its size or bulkiness, but for its long, tusk-like fork. The "tusks" are able to pick up and control the ball, and can pass the ball or score easily. Also unlike mammoths, the robot is designed for quick and agile movement and driving. "The consensus is (Mammoth) is one of the best robots we've ever made," Schuh said.

The Silicon Valley Regional will be held at the Event Center at San Jose State University on April 4 and April 5. Although Spartan Robotics already qualified for the championship in St. Louis after their performance in Sacramento, the Silicon Valley Regional is the main event for the team. Schuh said the competition will be stiff, with five competing teams that have already won a regional event.

The event is free to the public, and opening ceremonies start at 8:30 a.m. People who want to see the robots up-close in the pit area must wear closed-toe shoes. More information at


Like this comment
Posted by Lew L
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Apr 4, 2014 at 4:23 pm

The article fails to give credit to the organization that is responsible for the program and competition: FIRST, For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology. FIRST's mission is to show students of every age that science, technology, and problem-solving are not only fun and rewarding, but are proven paths to successful careers and a bright future for us all.

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