Three Los Altos teams placed fifth or better at the International Botball Tournament last month in Norman, Okla., where more than 30 teams competed.
Team 399 led the locals, placing third; Team 742 finished fourth and Team 453 took fifth overall in the tournament for seventh- through 12th-graders.
Botball is a team-based robotics program that involves building and coding robots to complete various tasks to earn points in the competition. The robots are autonomous, or coded to move on their own without a remote control. They are placed on an 8-foot-by-8-foot game board on which they sort colored rings or move pompoms, for example, to score points.
Los Altos resident Kathleen Xie, a sophomore coder on Team 399, said she learned several skills while participating in Botball.
“I think the good part is you learn a lot about teamwork, about leadership,” said the Pinewood School sophomore. “Not only do you learn about coding and building robots, but, as I said, teamwork, work ethic, responsibility – stuff like that – and you definitely do develop a lot of technical skill, like building, of course, and coding.”
The team aspect of Botball is something Michael Schuh, leader of the Los Altos Botball Community Team, said will help members in the future.
“The team aspect of this is big,” he said. “It gives the students a chance to be good team members and be good team leaders.”
The international tournament offered four ways for teams to earn points: single seeding, double seeding, double elimination and documentation. Single
seeding and double seeding focused on maximizing the number of points a team earned, with the only difference being double seeding had another team on the game board. Double elimination had two teams square off to try to earn the most points to advance to the next round. Documentation centered on what teams submitted across the season to gain points. The team with the most points was the overall winner.
Team 399 started off the international tournament by placing first in seeding. In the double-elimination portion, the team placed fifth and came in third overall in the tournament. In addition, the team earned the Outstanding Subsystem Judges award for the robot used in the double-elimination round.
Xie added that her team also created a disruptor robot, aimed at throwing off other teams’ robots. She said it gathered a crowd, as people watched it in action in their final double-elimination rounds.
Team 742 started off by placing third in seeding. It ended up placing fourth in the double-elimination portion and finished fourth overall in the tournament.
Team 453 placed fifth in its first season of Botball. Alex Shen, the freshman captain, said he was surprised the team performed so well.
“It was our first-ever time going to Oklahoma and an international tournament. And we expected to do OK, but we didn’t expect to do that well,” Shen said. “But we ended up getting fifth place overall. I think we are really proud of ourselves.”
Sinclair Chau, a Team 453 parent who hosted the bot building at his home, agreed.
“It made me proud how they built this from nothing and how they did so well being a rookie team, for them to be able to see them make friends with other teams,” Chau said. “Seeing how they were interacting with other teams … it made me feel proud and happy they were able to enjoy this experience.”
The all-rookie team faced some challenges, such as illness and parts not working on the robot. Gail Shen, Alex’s mom and the coach of Team 453, said one challenge they didn’t expect was other teams using disruptor bots – as Team 399 did.
“Nobody actually built a robot like that in regionals. Everyone’s just focused on getting the most points for their side,” she said. “We were all rookies, so we didn’t really think anyone was actually going to do that strategy. But there were a bunch of teams that did do that, and that’s actually why Alex’s team decided to change their strategy.”
The team took third in the double-elimination portion of the tournament.