DHS Wildcats going to World Robotics contest

Gearing up to beat the best in April

Huddled in the pit, Destrehan High School’s Wildcats Robotics team was still glowing over their robot having put nine balls in the tower in their first match at the Bayou Regional in Kenner.

“We just captured the tower on first match, which is rare,” said Brian Young, the team’s coach and leader. The requirement was eight balls in the tower in a competition that was called “First Stronghold” with obstacles designed like the game of capturing the opponents’ flag by maneuvering through a moat, draw bridges and lifting gates. The team was hyped up and busily recapping the match with Young, discussing changes to the robot at the 2016 First Robotics Competition Bayou Regional at the Ponchartrain Center Friday.

It wasn’t their day, but they’d already won the recent competition in Arkansas and were again invited to the First Robotics world championship April 27-30 in St. Louis, Mo. Last year’s team made it to the same championship and placed.

Eight years coaching robotic teams, Young knows robots and, more importantly, how to inspire students to take them to a win.

Dan Songy of Entergy, also a mentor, agreed with the importance of robotics.

Songy started with Young in 2009 when his son was on the team, who has since graduated. But he said he couldn’t give up mentoring when he saw what the program does for these students, recounting the level of detail they know about the robot and eagerness they have about fixing the robot.

Every team has six weeks to work on the robot, beginning in January, he said.

“You need a competitive robot,” Songy said. “You’re constantly improving and talking. It evolves.”At the Bayou Regional, Young said the Wildcats Robotics team, along with the Florida team (who won a regional competition in Orlando last week), were the ones to beat.This year’s robot has a camera that lets them throw balls up to six feet away.

“I haven’t seen anyone do that yet,” Young cooed. “Anything to save time.”

Each team has 2-1/2 minutes to dunk the balls and maneuver over the obstacle course to earn points. Faster robots make more points and more points equal a win.

And these students are willing to work hard for this victory.

To win, Young said, “You have to do everything good.”Young’s eight years of experience reflects in the students’ respect for him.

Brennan Schexnayder, a former team member and DHS graduate who returned to serve as a mentor, said the focus is on versatility and consistency, as well as a good strategy and good robot.

This robot had difficulty with climbing, but Schexnayder said it would be fixed by the World competition.

In his third year with the team, Courtland Crouchet said joining this effort helped him decide to go into computer science.

“The people are awesome,” Crouchet said. “Everyone is working hard, but we’re having fun.”

Kyle Rome, a DHS junior who drove the robot, called his team “a big family deal.”

Rome said he considered Young a second father and other team members agree.

“He guides us through these different tasks,” Rome said. “He gets us ready for the real world. You can’t go by the books, you have to take risks.”

Driving isn’t easy, he said.

“You’ve got to keep calm and your composure because this game changes every 30 seconds,” Rome said.

Rome’s co-pilot, DHS senior Clayton Harding added, “This is what I see myself doing all my life.” Harding is studying engineering. “You learn real quick you can’t always go by the books. You have to relay that information with your hands. You’ve got 2-1/2 minutes to show what you know.”


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