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[whitespace] Broadway High's robotics team grabs the gold at competition

First-year team from Lincoln High makes quarterfinals

Willow Glen--Clad in matching baby blue jerseys, members of Broadway High School's robotics team are getting used to bringing home the gold.

The team set an unprecedented record--taking home first place in each of the three regional competitions it entered. Their latest win was close to home at the NASA Ames Research Center Regional Competition, held at the SJSU Event Center on March 31 and April 1.

The annual tournament, which was broadcast live over the Internet, brought together 44 teams from high schools in Northern and Southern California, Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, Washington and Hawaii. And Broadway beat them all, again.

Holding onto a strong third place throughout the two days, members say they wanted this win, partly because the team is getting used to the thrill of victory.

Broadway pulled off a first-place win in mid-March at the NASA Space Center's Midwest Regional Robotics competition in Houston, Tex., too. And, at press time, the team was battling for a national title in Florida.

Sponsors such as NASA, Applied Materials and Federal Express helped teams build and finance their robots, and helped pay for the regional competition.

Broadway actually helped establish robotics programs at six schools, including the local first-year robotics teams at San Jose's Lincoln and Campbell's Blackford, and two Alaskan and two Hawaiian teams. All six teams made it to the quarterfinals.

Broadway's robot took the shape of a Cheesy Poof's box, a favorite munchie of the cartoon characters in South Park. And plenty of Broadway students were there to cheer their 'bot on.

"Everybody's having a lot of fun today," said team member and junior Brenden Collins, the first day of the tournament. Pop music from artists, such as Sugar Ray, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, blasted through the arena as students danced in the stands and cheered for their teams.

Even as the team held on tight to its lead, Collins said Broadway's team wouldn't have managed it without their coach, Jason Morella. "He never quits," Collins said. "Just when things are at their worst, that's when he's at his best."

Coach Morella said the team of 12 students spent over 500 hours putting the robot together. The team works out of a basement in Moffett Field, courtesy of NASA.

Broadway senior Steven Lugo said being on the field during each two-minute competition is a pretty intense, heart-pounding experience.

For most teams, assembling the robot is only half the battle. Each team is given six weeks to build the robot before shipping it away for the competition. During tournament, teams come prepared with power drills, screwdrivers, pliers and extra parts for their robots. Most teams expect to do plenty of repair work on a robot during the dozens of matches in which they compete.

Members of Lincoln High School's robotics team faced many repair challenges during the tournament, but they didn't let it bring the team down. Despite on-going problems with the robot, the team made it to the quarterfinals. "We're doing better every match," said Lincoln senior Brenden Hargiss during the tournament.

Lincoln's coach, Eric Stokely, said the most stressful part of the tournament is being in the pit, troubleshooting a malfunctioning robot. Stokely said he and his team of 10 are the least stressed when the robot's performing. Still, they live for the tournaments when the team can see its long hours of work put to the test.

Lincoln sophomore Mike Olloffe is his team's electrician. For a 16-year-old, Olloffe has an important job. He wires the motor, sets up the robot's systems and makes sure power gets from the battery to the motor. But Olloffe's not complaining. "It's a great time, when everybody's yelling at you and telling you you've got 10 minutes to fix it."
Chantal Lamers

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Web extra to the April 13-19, 2000 issue of Metro.

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