Horns of Havoc, Puyallup High School’s robotics team, made it to the district competition for the seventh year in a row.
The group of 20 students overcame the struggles and challenges of being a team made up of mostly first-year robotics students.
“It was my first year in robotics,” junior Tristan Chandler said. “It went well, and I had a lot of fun when we went to competitions.”
The team qualified for three competitions; the first two were local, and the final one was in Portland. In Portland, the group came up just seven points shy of advancing to worlds competition in St. Louis.
Long before the Horns entered and competed in competitions, the team had six weeks to build its robot. Under the guidance of head coach David Orona, the team finished its robot in five weeks — with a week to spare before the first competition of the season.
“This year, we had a complete overhaul,” Orona said. “We had a young team ... everything was new.”
In his first year as coach, Orona worked with his student-led team to help them communicate effectively and avoid conflict.
“What makes me most proud as their coach is at the start of the season, some were like deer in the headlights when it came to sharing their ideas,” he said. “Now, they’re openly expressing their ideas and thoughts. Seeing them blossom, it’s been amazing.”
Hunter Shouse, a sophomore and another first-year team member, joined late in the season, but was able to compete with his teammates.
“My favorite part was working with all the tools and building the robot,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
More important than the fun is the real-life application of skills the students can transfer easily to jobs in engineering or computer programing.
“It’s a way for them to have real-life applications of their studies,” Orona said. “You don’t see them engaging in the same way in an algebra class. What better way to prepare them than giving them a real-life application of their studies?”
In addition to engineering the robot, the students were also heavily involved with fundraising and getting the word out about the robotics program.
The students were able to collect grants from Boeing, Google, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Puyallup School District. They also received donations from Bill Korum’s Puyallup Nissan and Subaru of Puyallup.
While the students and Orona were able to recycle parts from previous years’ robots, the cost of the robot is estimated to be around $3,000. Entry fees alone into the contests totaled nearly $11,000.
“A big part of this is funding and working with the community,” Orona said.
The students had several fundraisers around the community, and have visited elementary schools in the Puyallup Valley to get the next generation of students excited about robotics.