The Reynoldsburg robotics team Technical Difficulties hopes to have very few technical difficulties at a state competition next month, after earning top-five placement at two recent regional contests.

The Reynoldsburg robotics team Technical Difficulties hopes to have very few technical difficulties at a state competition next month, after earning top-five placement at two recent regional contests.

"The team has consistently made it to the elimination rounds in every competition we have been in and I am very proud of our season so far," said Jim Coley, an eSTEM Academy engineering teacher and coach of FIRST Robotics team 4085.

Under the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics competition rules, participants had six weeks to build a robot capable of completing complicated tasks. The 58 students on the team were divided into smaller subgroups to work on different aspects of the robot.

"Stop Build" day was Feb. 17 and by March 26, at the Buckeye Regional contest in Cleveland, the drive team operated the robot as it stacked plastic totes, then placed a large recycling bin on top. The final task was to slip a long pool noodle, or "litter," through a slot on top of the bin.

The team finished fifth out of 56 teams in Cleveland, but that success was not without challenges on the field, Coley said.

"One challenge that the team faces is making sure that all systems on the robot are ready to go between each match," he said. "Group leads make checklists and run through them after every round. Something as simple as one loose wire can cause the robot to stop functioning on the field."

Teams begin with a basic FIRST kit to build the robot chassis, then use donated or purchased parts from other robotics companies to finish the robot. The total cost of the robot cannot exceed $4,000.

Three eSTEM teachers -- Coley, Amy Stewart and Joe Griffith -- coach the Reynoldsburg team.

Senior project leader Maggie Feldman said an important aspect of competition is called "coopertition," where the team works with an alliance team from another school.

"While we were in an alliance with the other teams, some of their robots had a few quirks that would not necessarily work to our advantage, so we had to quickly adapt and utilize what they could do to the best of our abilities," she said.

Scoring includes "fouls," when parts fall off or a robot fails to function. With each foul, the competing team gets points added to its score.

Feldman said the tactical team gathered the statistics needed to make informed decisions about the alliance teams and the safety team prepared students for any circumstances they would encounter, on and off the field.

"We made real connections with the other teams out there and proved how great our team spirit really is," Feldman said.

"Through it all, we made it to fifth place in the quarterfinals and are proud to say we have helped several teams with any 'technical difficulties' they may have encountered," she said. "We made real bonds and are honored to be able to finish in fifth."

At the April 5 Queen City Regionals in Cincinnati, the team did one better, finishing fourth out of 47 teams.

Even though both competitions were regional contests, they were open to teams from all over the world, Coley said.

"There were teams from Canada in Cleveland and a team from Mexico in Cincinnati," he said.

Shortly after that contest, the Reynoldsburg team was invited to attend the state championships in May at Thurgood Marshall High School in Dayton.

"The top 24 teams are invited," Coley said. "We are ranked number 13, which means that we will not act as an alliance captain, but should end up on a solid alliance."

He said students are busy preparing for the state tournament.

"The drive team will use our competition robot to practice our game plan," he said. "Other than practice, everything else is in place."

Coley said everything the team does is paid for by donations from its sponsors: TS Tech, Dynalab, Limited Foundation, Buckeye Power Sales, ADL and others.

"Dynalab covered the cost of our buses to both competitions and TS Tech donated more than $17,000 to the team this year," he said. "Without these gifts, we would not be able to have this amazing program."