WSD Robotics Team Makes Mechanical Mark At Regionals

The Ratchet Rockers succeeded in magisterial style at two competitions

The Ratchet Rockers with Blue Widow and their St. Louis Regional blue banner.

Gavin Block, Reporter

The Wentzville School District’s Ratchet Rockers (Team 1706) solidly triumphed at two regional robotics competitions, with students from all four high schools taking part.

The Ratchet Rockers consists of around 35 students. These students competed at the FIRST regionals with their robot “Blue Widow”; its primary functions are to pick up cargo (balls) through two intake systems and launch it into a bin to score points. The machine can also climb rungs, with more points being awarded for reaching a higher rung.

FIRST is a worldwide youth robotics organization that holds competitions to showcase the skill and craftsmanship of student roboticists, engineers, and programmers. They are the world’s leading youth-serving non-profit organization advancing STEM education.

The Ratchet Rockers first traveled to Kansas City for the Heartland Regional from Mar. 16 to Mar. 19. They faced off against 27 teams from Missouri, Kansas and Minnesota. The Ratchet Rockers breezed through the qualifications stage, winning 11 of their 12 matches. The team formed an alliance with the BroncoBots (Lee’s Summit) and Northtown Robotics (Kansas City) for the advancing rounds. The Ratchet Rockers eventually clinched the title of regional winners, and they also received the Excellence in Engineering Award.

The Wentzville team participated in the St. Louis Regional from Mar. 30 to Apr. 2, where they were again a nightmare to anyone who challenged them. They proved victorious in 10 of the 12 qualification games they played, including a contest where they put 141 points on the board, the highest in the entire event. They went on to win all of their playoff matches, making them regional champions for a second time; they also earned the Autonomous Award sponsored by Ford. This is the first time in the team’s history that the Ratchet Rockers have won two regional competitions. After attaining both, they now have a total of eight blue banners to be proudly displayed.

“The team did fantastic at regionals,” Robotics Director Dr. Narelle Deatherage expressed. “The combination of a great drive team and a very high-performance robot is exciting.”

Because of their outstanding achievements at the regional events, the Ratchet Rockers qualified to compete at the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Houston, Texas. The competition will be held from Wednesday, Apr. 20 to Saturday, Apr. 23. There is much anticipation and excitement as the Wentzville team will look to make an international name for themselves.

“To prepare for worlds, students have added a color sensor for cargo, and they have been fine-tuning the robot’s [Blue Widow’s] “move and shoot” capability in order to speed up the robot’s ability to score cargo,” Dr. Deatherage described. “The climbing mechanism has been modified to improve the robot’s grip when climbing, and of course our drive team has spent more time practicing driving and operating the robot.”

Sophomore Aden Buchanan noted that he was proud after he and his team won the regional titles.

“I may be the driver, but the build team that fixes everything that I break does amazing work,” Buchanan acknowledged. “They are super quick to fix the bot and put in so much work for the team.”

Buchanan said that they are feeling good going into the international championship and excited to compete with the top teams in the world.