Hortonville students build top-performing machines
By Scott Bellile
Hortonville High School has learned it’s home to some world-class robot builders.
The high school robotics team is headed to the FIRST Championship in St. Louis following a second-place finish in its division at the FIRST Tech Challenge North Super Regional Championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
From March 17-19, the team worked its autonomous robots to an 8-1 record in challenges such as picking up blocks and scaling mountains. It also broke its own state record of 366 points (set in Milwaukee in February) to set a new one of 410.
The record-breaking match was a rarity in the robotics world because during the End Game, operators of all four robots on the field achieved getting their robots to hang off the topmost pull-up bar of the mountains.
“Of over 3,000 teams in the world, only 7 percent make it to a regional championship, and even far less get invited to the world championship,” said Mike Ubl, Hortonville robotics coach. “The other two teams from Wisconsin were knocked out very early in the competitions and are not moving on. I can’t tell you how rare it is for any team to make it to the coming event, which will take over the entire city of St. Louis at the end of April.”
Hortonville will compete against teams representing 39 countries during the world competition April 27-30. Mike Ubl’s son Jacob Ubl said that’s “surreal” and “truly an honor” for the team, which started as a hobby group for teens who like engineering.
“We never expected to make it this far,” Jacob Ubl said. “In terms of school size and funding, we are a little tiny team. To think that that a small-town Hortonville team played in the big leagues and won is amazing.”
The FIRST Championship will also give Hortonville students a chance to be noticed by admissions staff from MIT, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and California Polytechnic State University.
“It’s a chance to show that among the engineers of the world, we are worth something, we can do something,” Jacob Ubl said. “This small blimp in time is no big deal to most people, but for us it’s a chance of a lifetime.”