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Miami University hosts robotics challenge

Over 300 middle and high school students gathered at Miami University on Saturday for the competition.
Garrett Reese
Over 300 middle and high school students gathered at Miami University on Saturday for the competition.

Miami University hosted the FIRST Tech Robotic Challenge on Saturday. Over 300 middle and high school students gathered in 24 teams to compete. They designed, built, and coded their own robots.

The robots at the competition were designed with this year’s game in mind— POWERPLAY.

In it, teams consist of two robot operators, a human player, and a coach. They work together to get their robots to place colored cones on “junctions”—long, yellow poles.

The poles are scattered around a small arena at varying heights. The taller the pole, the more points scored.

It’s a process that requires a lot of communication and teamwork, organizers said.

Nancy Richards, regional director of FIRST Tech in Ohio, said those kinds of soft skills are important for students.

“They learn about leadership, they learn about problem-solving, they learn about project management as well as marketing because they actually market their teams,” Richards said. “They also learn about working together not only as a team, their team, but working with other teams.”

Samuel Mesloh is a programmer on Innovators 3311, a team made up of students from Beavercreek, Huber Heights, Centerville, and other local cities.

As a programmer, Mesloh was responsible for programming the robot for the 30-second autonomous period—that's when the robot must move independently to place a cone on a junction.

The event at Miami was his first in-person robotics competition.

“The main difference between in-person and virtual is that there are four robots and you have an alliance partner that you can communicate with,” Mesloh said. “So there’s a lot of strategies that can go into that.”

He admitted competing in front of everyone was a lot of pressure, but he thought the Innovators handled themselves well.

“We’re a really great group. We work well together,” he said.

Four teams moved on from Saturday’s competition in Oxford to FIRST’s state competition: Nuts and Bolts from Loveland; The Nuts from Walnut Hills in Cincinnati; Quantum Leap from Mason; and Juniper from Sycamore.

The competition was sponsored by Miami’s College of Engineering and Computing.

Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.