Some things just mesh.
A group of eight home-school high school students in Hudson Oaks discovered this as they recently teamed up to win the North Texas region in the robotics competition First Tech Challenge.
The team, named MESH (not an acronym; they just think it looks cool), consists of two members with three years' experience, four with two years' and two rookies. The high school program began in 2015-16, but some of the students competed in middle school and qualified for the First Lego League International Robotics Competition in Toronto in 2014.
"MESH does not really stand for anything, but is more of an illustration of working together. A machine works properly if all its gears are meshed together correctly," said team member Kyle Breidenthal, a senior who plans to study engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington. "Likewise, out team consists of multiple members (gears) that need to work together (mesh) if we are to be successful.”
The team also includes senior Joseph Tyer, who plans to study engineering at UTA; junior Philip Connor; sophomores Joel Tyer, Sam Spurgeon and Micah Norman; freshman Graden Hester; and eighth-grader Abigail Tyer.
In winning the North Texas region, the team defeated teams from much larger schools, including Aledo, Arlington, Dallas and Plano. They qualified for South Super Regional Tournament in Athens, Georgia, this month but will not attend because of scheduling conflicts, coach Curtis Tyer said. He said they have applied for and are awaiting word on an invitation to the World Championships in Houston April 18-21, which will be determined by lottery.
"Even though our team was not able to go to the super regionals in Georgia, we had an amazing season," Joseph Tyer said. "I'm going to miss the long tournament days and working on the robot, but I'm excited for what's next."
Abigail Tyer is also hoping to be invited to participate in an international tournament in Australia.
"My objectives for the year were to compete well and go far. We met my first objective and I hope to continue on to the second," she said.
Each year's challenge is released in September. The challenge changes every year, and is essentially is a list of methods by which a team can score points, along with a set of rules that the teams must follow. During the season, the teams devise a strategy to score the most points, design their robot using computer-aided design, build the robots using allowed parts, create programs for the robot, and then test/iterate their design.
The robot must fit within an 18-inch cube and pass an inspection to confirm that it is in line with the rules. The competition playing field is a 12-foot by 12-foot foam surface with a surrounding wall.
MESH qualified for the North Texas regionals by winning the Bethesda Qualifier Tournament in January. The season began with 260 teams competing in North Texas, with 48 advancing to the championships. From there, only seven are invited to the elite event in Georgia.
"Knowing the high quality of competitors at the North Texas regional championship, I told our team that there was a small chance, 5 percent, of them winning an award. However, we had favorable pairings ... that allowed us to finish undefeated and with the most ranking points in the 24-team Sapphire Division," Coach Tyer said.
That win, however, allowed MESH to form an alliance with a couple other small teams that led to overall great results for all.
"We were probably the weakest of the three teams. But, with the opportunity to be first to invite another team to join us in an alliance for the playoffs, we were able to select the best team in our division, Reicher Robotics (Reicher Catholic High School in Waco)," Tyer said. "We also selected Bulldog Robotics (Trimble Tech, Fort Worth)."
MESH’s alliance then went on to defeat the Ruby Division winner.
"The students that make up MESH have demonstrated a great capability to work together and with other teams," Tyer said. "Many adults from other teams have complimented the team on their maturity, behavior and interaction with other teams."
Tyer said his team members have also been ambassadors for the FTC program by going to schools in the area to encourage students to get involved in science, technology, engineering, and math programs.
Patrick Lawler, Hudson Oaks city administrator, said the students will be honored with recognition at the Thursday, March 22, City Council meeting.
"We are very proud of the team," he said.
"As an electrical engineer, I am amazed at what these high school students have accomplished this year," Tyer said. "I know that they will continue to grow as designers and will work on some key challenges in the world."