HELENA — In the basement of the Helena Regional Airport, you’ll find Fusion Robotics, a non-profit that encompasses three local high school robotics teams. On March 5th the teams competed in the state competition where the Protostars placed 2nd, Fission 20938 placed 5th, and Fusion 4133 placed 16th.
“So the challenge this year involves picking up wiffle balls and then plastic cubes. And so they're stored in a corner of the field and every robot has to be able to go in, pick them up, take them out of the corner, and then stack them on a tower that has multiple different tiers. So robots get more points for stacking them on higher tiers. And then the towers themselves can wobble. And then, all the blocks and stuff have different weights. So they'll tip them more than some of the others. And you get points for having them balanced,” Rhett Quinn, captain of Fission said.
These teams spend about six months getting their bots ready for State, which comes with a lot of trial and error.
“Um, we went through a lot, we went through a lot of prototypes usually starting with, like, 3d, we tried to 3D print parts. And if it's not the right size, we have to redo the 3d printed parts to make it smaller or bigger, depending on what the object is,” said Dylan Reichert, Protostars captain.
These teams have seen a lot of success this year, so much so that one of their members, Miranda Scheafor found themselves all the way in Houston, TX for the Worlds tournament.
“So Dean's List is an award that they give out every year to 10 people from FTC, which is the robotics level that we're at and 10 people from FRC, which is the level above. And basically what happens is your team nominates you as somebody who really exemplifies a lot of the characteristics of first and leadership and has made a big impact on the team and them and the community as a whole. So they write up an essay about you and why they think you're good for the award. From there, they pick semi finalists who get interviewed at the state competition. And based on that interview, they picked finalists to go to Worlds and I got selected to be one of those finalists,” said Scheafor.
Another success story is Rhett Quinn, captain of the Fission team who just received a scholarship.
“So, I just was announced as the first place winner from capital high for the science innovators scholarship. So that's a $1,500 scholarship, awarded through Montana Learning Center and a couple other Um, businesses and nonprofits,” he said.
The success of the team is greatly reliant on the community, who helps with funding, among other aspects.
“I think one of our biggest sponsors that I'd like to thank is Montana hydraulics. They're a local machining company. And for the past four years, they've donated some machine time on their laser cutter to allow us to make custom parts. So like our drive, train plates, scoring mechanism, and a bunch of other parts that allow us to use our machines free of charge. And then also Helena Regional Airport, she gives us a really nice working space,” said Quinn.