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Raptor Force

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Posted: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 10:00 pm

In the four years Jim Elliot Christian High School's robotics team has been in existence, it has won the regional FIRST Robotics Competition twice.

FIRST, an acronym - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology -was started by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, to get students interested in technology.

And it has worked, especially at Jim Elliot, where 40 of the school's 195 students are on the team.

They'll be going to the national competition in Atlanta for the second time April 17-19.

At the event, the robotics team, which goes by the name Raptor Force Engineering, will attempt to move a ball, four feet in diameter, around a track, pausing several times to lift the ball over a six-foot-tall bridge.

The team will attempt the same challenge at the national competition.

This year's robot stands at less than five feet tall and has two, curved arms for grabbing the ball. The arms rotate upward to lift the ball over the bridge.

Teams are given points for how well their robot accomplishes these tasks. Awards are also given for creatively designed robots.

Teams across the world start six weeks before their regional competition with a kit full of parts and a task they'll need to accomplish with those parts. Every year the task is different.

Tom Bray, of Jim Elliot Christian, oversees the school's Raptor Force Engineering Club.

The kit alone cost the team $6,000, though team member Matt Hagan, 18, said it is worth much more than that. Teams can spend a maximum of $3,000 additionally on their robot.

The team started as an idea from Mike Akahori, an engineer at University of California, Davis whose son is on the team. Mike Akahori called Tom Bray, science teacher at Jim Elliot, who fell in love with the idea. There was only one thing missing - the $6,000.

Bray called a friend, Doug Buhr, who quickly raised the money. The team named this year's robot after Buhr, who died of a heart attack at the beginning of last season.

Success didn't come right away.

"Our first year's robot was really good at tipping over," Bray said.

The next year the team won first place in regionals. Their third year they missed the win in a nail-biter.

"This year we won very decisively," Bray said.

With the founders of the team in their senior year, Bray thinks they have a good chance at getting into the finals. Even if they don't win, though, the experience will be well worth it.

Seniors Hagan, Phil Akahori and Kevin Straw, all 18, all plan to continue toward a career in engineering.

Hagan has been accepted to University of California, Davis, UC San Diego, California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo and Purdue University.

Phil Akahori is waiting to hear back from UC Davis, and Straw will go to San Joaquin Delta College before transferring to a four-year university.

Bray said when his students mention FIRST Robotics on their applications, schools know what they're talking about.

"When they put that on their application, it goes a long way," Bray said.

Jim Elliot Christian High School students stand with their robot after winning regionals at the FIRST University of California, Davis Robotics Competition. The team will now be competing at nationals in April. (Courtesy photo)

When Jim Elliot High School's robotics team go to competitions, presenters don't usually know how to introduce them.
While other team names are followed by a long list of sponsors - including big names like Motorola, Ford and Google - Jim Elliot High is sponsored by, well, Jim Elliot High.
"They get to us and they don't even know what to say," said Matt Hagan, 18.
This year, the team is looking for sponsors to help their 40-member team get to the FIRST Robotics Competition national championships in Atlanta.
The trip will cost $550 per student for airfare and hotel rooms.
To donate to the robotics team, call 368-2800 and ask for Tom Bray.
- Jim Elliot Christian High School.

Contact reporter Amanda Dyer at amandad@lodinews.com.

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  • posted at 8:24 am on Thu, Mar 27, 2008.


    Jeez, I LOVE brains. Well done !!!!

  • posted at 6:07 am on Thu, Mar 27, 2008.


    Way to go Jim Elliott.



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