The Davis Senior High School gym was filled with hundreds of loud and spirited high school students on Sunday, all wearing matching team outfits, chanting and doing coordinated spirit dances.
Passers-by might think it was a high school sports tournament, had there not been giant robotic machines whirring, beeping and crashing into one another while attempting to move around yellow crates in the middle of the gym.
A group of robotics teams participated in the Capital City Classic FIRST Robotics Competition at Davis from Friday to Sunday, with students from California and Oregon vying for a chance to win.
The competition featured roughly 46 teams, all of which built robots to face off in an arcade-themed challenge.
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Though the competition falls during the off-season of competitive robotics - the season starts in January - the Capital City Classic is sanctioned by the FIRST Robotics Competition and follows the same competition rules and guidelines as an in-season competition.
To win, teams must work cooperatively in rotating groups of three teams called alliances. Robots compete against one another, but stay loyal to their alliances while attempting to score points by moving yellow crates disguised as cubes into designated spaces. The more yellow cubes a team moves into the right spot, the more points a team wins.
Fiorella Kassab and two of her children drove all the way from Wilsonville, Ore. - nine hours, she said - to get to the Capital City Classic. The two kids were competing for the Wilsonville High School robotics team, Error Code Xero 1425, the only team from Oregon in the competition.
One of Kassab’s other children got into a space engineering program in his first year in college because of his robotics experience, she said. He is now set to start a paid internship in Canada, an achievement she attributed to his time on the Wilsonville team.
Though a chance to win the competition is the big incentive for most students, Kassab said there are other payoffs including lessons in leadership and teamwork
“It’s an experience like no other,” she said. “You can’t learn any of that in a classroom.”