They had a great robot and some bad luck.
The Morris Area High School Plaid Pillagers robotics team built what several members said was the team's best robot in the past few years. The team is a combination math, science, engineering and technology team that builds a robot to compete against robotics teams from other schools. The competitions are regional and include schools from several states.
Although the robot did well in two main competitions, it wasn't enough to overcome some other challenges.
The first challenge was the weather which forced the district to cancel school or dismiss early many days from January through March. The team lost valuable build and practice time on those days because it only gets six weeks to build the robot.
The team couldn't make it to the first scheduled regional competition in North Dakota because of weather. The team did compete in an alternative competion in Des Moines, Iowa.
"We didn't place super high," team member Teresa Boyd. "A lot of it was still figuring out how the robot moves and getting used to the controls."
Still, the competition was a success because the robot didn't break down, team member Michael Romberger said.
"The robot did well. It did what is was supposed to do," team member Sam Jordan said.
The robot was built to lift and carry hatch covers in a simulated space project.
The second competition in Minnesota was very successful but the team had some more bad luck when it was selected for rounds of competition. Teams from different schools are paired in a random drawing and they compete as partners through several rounds of competition.
Teams can score points based on their success and the success of their partners. The team's robot and its operators again performed well, team members said.
But it wasn't enough to overcome obstacles.
During one round, a team partner's robot broke down and in another round, the team partner didn't show up, Romberger said.
The Plaid Pillagers understand about breakdowns because their team has experienced its own in the past.
Wendy DeRung, one of the team's coaches, said many of the Plaid Pillagers spent time during the second competition helping a younger, inexperienced team with its robots.
Boyd and fellow senior team member Mara DeRung said the season was satisfying because the team had built its best robot. "This is the best one that we've done the most work on," DeRung said.
The goal for next year is to build on the success from this year, junior Romberger and freshman Jordan said.
For an update on the team's solar project for the school click this link: https://www.stevenscountytimes.com/news/4607933-teams-solar-panel-project-almost-ready