Thursday, March 10, 2016

Boyne City Blaze wins high school robotics competition

After two days of intense competition at the FIRST Robotics event in Standish-Sterling, Boyne City Blaze and their two alliance partners came out victorious. In addition to the win, the team also received the Entrepreneurship Award and the Industrial Safety Award, both of which come with points that help the team on their quest to qualify for the state competition in Grand Rapids in April.  
“To be on the winning alliance at a 40-team competition is a great accomplishment,” said team build mentor Steve Jarema. “There were rookie teams there who had just built their first robots and teams that have been doing this for 20 years. We were pleased with the performance of our robot and were consistently ranking in the top two or three teams throughout the preliminary rounds.”  
BC Blaze was partnered with the NC GEARS team from Fremont, and the Freeland Fabricators, from Freeland, to comprise the top ranked alliance and the eventual winners. Other area teams, including Petoskey, Grayling, East Jordan, Central Lake, and Beaver Island, progressed to the playoffs but were eliminated in the quarter- and semi-final rounds.
The Industrial Safety Award was presented to the team based on their preparation for any injuries or potential issues that might arise, their response to actual events at the competition, and an interview of the team Safety Captain, Elizabeth Mansfield. The Entrepreneurship Award was one that required the submission of a business plan prior to the competition. Twenty-two students and ten adult mentors worked since early January to design and build the robot, submit information for awards, coordinate travel plans, and prepare for competition. On a community level, several local companies helped with the fabrication of parts and all of the team’s sponsors contributed to its success through their financial support.
The Blaze robot weighs 90 lbs., maneuvers with tracks, has an arm to open, raise, and lower defenses, and picks up and shoots balls called boulders in the 2016 FIRST Stronghold game that has a medieval castle theme. It is operated by a four person drive team for the majority of each two and a half minute match but runs through a series of preprogrammed actions for the first 15 seconds during the autonomous period. The drive team at the Standish-Sterling event was comprised of team captain Jacob Brewer as the driver, Andrew Yang as the arm operator, Eli Korthase as the drive coach, and Noah Lockman and Max Matelski sharing the human player role.
“It is important that younger team members like Andrew and Noah get the experience of competition to carry those skills on to future years of the program,” said Brewer, a senior. “I have been on the drive team since my freshman year and know that I have benefited from having those years of experience.” Korthase is also a senior team member this year, Yang is a sophomore, while Lockman and Matelski are freshmen.
BC Blaze is in its fifth year of FIRST Robotics participation and has grown into a year round program that provides a wide variety of opportunities for students to learn skills including fabrication, programming, project management, public speaking, fundraising, marketing, business, and teamwork. The team does community outreach and fundraising activities when it is not building a robot and going to competitions.
The next goal for the team is to put in another good performance at their next FIRST Robotics competition at Lake Superior State University on April 1 and 2. The team welcomes contributions of time, expertise, resources, and funds from community supporters.
> Anyone interested in more information about the team can contact the team’s head mentor, Karen Jarema, at Boyne City High School at 231-439-8100 or via email at

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