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JHHS RoboBroncs qualify for international competition after strong showing last weekend

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – JHHS RoboBroncs coach Gary Duquette promised his kids the two-day regional competition in Utah would be “the hardest fun you’ll ever have.” Boy how was it.

The FIRST Robotics team had an exceptional outing this past weekend at the Maverik Center in West Valley City. JHHS 10th-12th graders (competing at Team #3374) were awarded the Engineering Inspiration Award, qualifying them for International Competition.

The Engineering Inspiration award celebrates outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering within a team’s community. Inspiring others to respect science and technology requires passion, knowledge, and commitment. FIRST celebrates these qualities by presenting its Engineering Inspiration Award. The winner of this award has their ticket punched to the 2018 International FIRST Championships in Houston, Texas, and their $5,000 registration fee paid for by NASA.

The triumph was meaningful for America Martinez, business team leader and sophomore at JHHS. “It was unbelievable realizing that we qualified for Houston. The experience left me awestruck and seeing the happiness radiate from everyone made the moment that much more incredible,” she said.

Kirby kills it

Kirby isn’t messing around. He can’t wait for Houston.

This year’s FRC competition is titled “FIRST Power Up” and combines the world of robotics with the equally-frenzied world of video games. Teams have six weeks to build autonomous and remote-controlled robots that compete in a real life “video game.”

Wesley Womack, lead engineer at Epsilon Technology Corp., and FIRST Team #3374 volunteer engineering mentor, commented, “Great work everybody. I am very pleased with our performance this weekend. You made a very reliable robot and executed quite well on our strategy. We have the best scouting we’ve ever had. Great mechanics, great wiring, reliable autonomy.”

“Kirby” the RoboBronc robot finished 7-4-0 with an overall ranking of 8th place out of 52 teams and more than 91,000 high school students competing.

“I couldn’t be prouder of these students and the work they have done throughout the year,” Duquette said. “FIRST is not about the robot, and the students proved it. These students work year-round, mentoring hundreds of K-9 students, volunteering, presenting and practicing. Spreading the word of FIRST in our community. Now they get the payoff.”

Simplicity and reliability is what the students envisioned for Kirby during early season strategy sessions. What came out was exactly that.

“Other teams commented repeatedly on the quality and ability of Kirby,” Duquette said. “We ran every match. Our auto programming worked as designed, and we had only one major repair of a belt sprocket. We played as well as we could have, but the third alliance beat us in the quarterfinals.”

On to the big time

JHHS RoboBroncs think tank taught Kirby everything he knows.

Kirby’s kids acquitted themselves well but how would they hold up during the Chairman’s Awards presentation when judges take a hard look at the team’s work? It was a nervous time and Duquette had his fingers crossed the judges would see the time and effort his team put in.

“We were up against some amazing teams, powerhouses from Austin, Texas, Palo Alto, California. These are the types of teams that have 60-80 students and 20-30 mentors. They start and support teams around the world and they have crazy budgets,” Duquette said. “None of that mattered in the end. Judges recognized that our team truly embodies the meaning of FIRST. We received the Engineering Inspiration Award, essentially the runner-up Chairman’s, and with it we punched our ticket to The International FIRST Championships in Houston, Texas.”

One thing the JHHS RoboBroncs did not program Kirby to do is print money. While their registration fee is covered, the team will need travel money to get to Texas.

“Now the students need to get there,” Duquette said. “We will need the help of our community to send these high-achieving students to Houston to compete.”

Later this month Team #3374 is slated to compete at the FRC Colorado Regional Competition in Denver (against more than 50 International Teams) at the University of Denver/Daniel L. Ritchie Center. FIRST Championship (Houston) 2018 will be held April 18-21, 2018 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, Texas.

The team will need to raise an estimated $15,000 in the next few weeks to cover the expenses of getting to Houston. Tax deductible donations to assist the team with its travel expenses can be made at, then use the “donate now” button and select JH RoboBroncs on the drop-down menu.

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