SLV 4-H robotics teams excel at national contest

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – Three San Luis Valley 4-H youth robotics teams competed in the RoboRave USA robotics competition, Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 at the Albuquerque Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the middle school division, Stefan Guillen of Romeo and Damion Garcia of Alamosa, took home first place in the Fastbot competition. They also placed sixth in the a-MAZE-ing Challenge.

In the high school division, Matthew Jones of Antonito and Daniel Chavez of Alamosa won second place in the AlpineBot Challenge. Mason Torr and Michael Ward of Center placed sixth in the Line Following Challenge.

The 16th annual RoboRave event featured more than 350 teams and 800 youth participants. Groups competed in nine different robot challenges, in three age divisions. There were teams from New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, California, Mexico and China.

“It felt really great to win in the Fastbot contest,” said first-time attendee Garcia, 11. “I was nervous because our robot shut down right on the starting line. But my coach and I got it turned back on just in time to start the race.”

Fastbot, a drag racing challenge, was just one of four events that San Luis Valley teams competed in. To win that event, Guillen and Garcia added gearing to their robot and wrote a speedy program. Their robot zipped down the track to win both the qualifying heat and the final head-to-head match. They took home $100 in prize money for the win.

Garcia and Guillen also competed in the a-MAZE-ing Challenge. In that event they used precision programming to navigate an elevated maze course.

Chavez and Jones built a creative robot, featuring a grappling hook, in the AlpineBot Contest. For that challenge they had to summit a 60-degree incline and plant a flag on top of a table. Their creative design turned heads throughout the event.

In the Line Following Challenge, Torr and Ward used sensors to follow a line and deliver a payload of ping pong balls to a cardboard tower. This was their third year at the event, and first time making the finals tournament.

“We were thrilled to make it into the line follow tournament this year,” said Torr, 17. “There was some tough competition with some cool designs. We hope to use our experience to make some last minute tweaks to our own robot before we head off to compete in RoboRAVE International in Colombia this week.”

RoboRAVE USA and the upcoming RoboRAVE International event are just a few of the contests that San Luis Valley 4-H robotics teams participate in each year. The teams have been meeting regularly since November to learn to build and program robots, through a challenge model.

“All of our teams put in such a great effort at this year’s event,” said Amy Henschen, director of San Luis Valley 4-H Robotics, and 4-H Agent with Colorado State University Extension. “Everyone’s robots were having reliability issues, but the teams powered through the challenges. They had really creative designs, which showed off their engineering, building, and programming skills. I can’t wait to see what they all come up with at our summer fair challenge and next year’s RoboRAVE events!”

For more information on the San Luis Valley 4-H robotics program, or the 4-H youth development program, visit the San Luis Valley website at, call 719-852-7381 or email [email protected]. 4-H is a cooperative effort between Colorado State University Extension and Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

Caption: Very proud coach Amy Henschen, center, poses with her winning FastBot team, Damion Garcia, left, and Stefan Guillen, right, at RoboRAVE USA. Courtesy photo