MARQUETTE - With only two years of experience under their belts, the members of Marquette Area Public Schools FIRST Robotics Team No. 3617, Cold Logic, are eagerly awaiting their shot at another title next year.
The group already took home a first place finish in the Niles District Championship downstate, a sixth-place finish in Traverse City and earned a trip to Ypsilanti to compete with just 68 of 192 total teams in the state of Michigan.
They placed 33rd overall in that final competition, and they're hoping to do better next year, though right now, they're simply working to ensure there is a next year.
Members of Marquette Senior High School’s FIRST Robotics team Cold Logic 3617 pose around their robot, Big Rig. (Photo courtesy of MSHS FIRST Robotics Team)
As other students get ready to wrap up their 2011-2012 academic school year, the nine members of Cold Logic will hit the pavement, hoping to earn more sponsorships from local businesses and community members.
They've already gotten donations from companies such as Integrated Designs Inc., J.C. Penney, Frei Chevy, Cook Sign Services and others, but the team still needs further funding as they move into next year.
FIRST Robotics is a national program that pits high schoolers against each other in a robot-building competition. The students are sent a kit with basic parts to build their 'bots, and can use a specific dollar amount of outside help to improve them.
The students must craft and program the robots themselves, and after spending even a few minutes with the students, talking about their team, their love for this up-and-coming sport is clearly evident.
They have a relatively small team when compared to schools from downstate, so each person on the team is tasked with more than most. Even so, each member of the group is loath to take personal responsibility for Cold Logic's success, citing a team effort every chance they get.
One of the things the students said they find most appealing about FIRST is the welcoming atmosphere of being around other kids who are interested in the same things they are, things that would often result in derision in a high school hallway.
For these kids, there is no such thing as a nerd.
"When you're in school, you have to act normal, otherwise people will think you're so weird, but at competition, you can be as dorky and nerdy as you want and no one is going to judge you," said sophomore James Gladwell, the rest of the team nodding in agreement.
One team member, freshman Mitchell Frye, seemed to love this aspect of FIRST the most.
Almost every team in the annual competitions has a mascot, the students said, with Cold Logic's team mascot being Rig the Robot.
Frye can be seen in many team photos, sporting the mascot's metallic costume with the team's signature blue Cold Logic shirt.
When addressing the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education - as many team members did during Monday's meeting - he said the team, and its general attitude of "come as you are," is something he couldn't find in other sports.
"I've found that even though I played sports, baseball and football sometimes at recess, I don't really find that those are as interesting to me as FIRST Robotics," Frye said. "It's less restrictive than regular sports. Like, football you have to wear a uniform. Heck, they (FIRST) have dancing. You just go out in this area where you can ... belt out dance moves, break dance, boogie. That's probably one of the reasons I like FIRST Robotics. It allows me to express myself, whereas in other sports, I would not have been able to."
Each member that spoke to the board gave a different reason for their love of the program, some saying it looked great on a college application or that they love the team aspect of it.
Sophomore Justin Hanna - who described himself to the board as a "two-year veteran" - said he particularly enjoys the technical side of the sport.
"The FIRST Robotics competition is an opportunity to show other high schoolers like us that there is fun stuff you can do with engineering and science and all the math we're learning," Hanna said. "It's a chance to see how much fun the application can be."
Each team member that spoke Monday seemed to be brimming with pride in their accomplishments as a part of Cold Logic, eager to share their experience in a situation that would intimidate many high school students. But it was Elijah Donnell who summed up the core idea of the program that most resonated with every member of Cold Logic.
"Being on the Robotics team is probably the best thing that's ever happened to me and probably will be the best thing that will happen to me in my high school career," she said, standing at the podium. "I just have one thing to say: Sports is everlasting. Technology is ever-changing."
Anyone interested in learning more about FIRST Robotics Team N?o. 3617, Cold Logic can check out their Facebook page by typing "Team Cold Logic" into the Facebook search bar.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.