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Capac team's FIRST!


Robotics team takes top spot in regionals



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March 26, 2008
CAPAC — Capac's 'Metal and Soul' robotics team showed its mettle over the weekend, finishing first in the West Michigan Regional competition at Grand Valley State University.

The win at the Regional level earned the first-year team a trip to the World Championship Robotics FIRST competition at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta April 17-19.

The Capac team earlier took honors at the Michigan FIRST Rookie Pilot Competition held at Kettering University in Flint, March 7-8.

John Antilla, a Capac School Board member who serves as one of the team's mentors, said both students and mentors were overwhelmed by their showing.

"I'm still pinching myself," said Antilla. "We can't believe we won the whole thing. The kids are ecstatic and so are we."

Antilla noted that the Capac robotics team more than earned its right to advance to the World Championships.

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Members of Capac’s first-place robotics team include: (front) Tracy Stoldt, Jon Antilla, Tina Hadley, Bill SaintOnge, Kevin Veltman; (middle) Brandon SaintOnge, Caius Schneider, Josh Hill, Aaron Sawicki, Ben SaintOnge; (back) Cody Laeder and Corey Green. Not shown: Grant Pentecost, Jeremy Paluch.

"We were part of the winning Alliance and we also won the Rookie All-Star event," said Antilla. "Winning either of them would have been the ticket to go to the big event."

The Capac team competed against 52 other teams at the Regionals, overcoming a low ranking early-on to surge ahead at the end.

Antilla noted that Metal and Soul surprised its opponents by employing some unique defensive tactics.

The strict rules governing robot-to-robot interaction tend to preclude defense, said Antilla, but the Capac team succeeded by keeping the 40-inch trackball away from the opposition.

"The other teams decided it would be an offensive game," he said. "But we developed a defensive strategy of keep-away that neutralized the competion.

"We didn't allow them to keep the ball," said Antilla. "We were basically able to shut down their offense."

In the aftermath of their unexpected victory, Metal and Soul participants and mentors have been deluged with kudos from the other competitors.

"We got a lot of compliments," said Antilla. "They were very impressed with us, especially with our defensive strategy."

Capac students and team members include: Brandon SaintOnge, Cody Laeder, Josh Hill, Grant Pentecost, Aaron Sawicki, Ben SaintOnge, Corey Green and Jeremy Paluch. The team is coached by Capac teacher Tracy Stoldt.

Team mentors are Bill SaintOnge, Jerry Pentecost, Kevin Veltman and Antilla.

Antilla said the team's robot has already been crated and shipped to Atlanta in advance of the April competition.

Now the team must do some additional fundraising to pay for the entrance fee, travel to and lodging in Atlanta.

For more information, visit the Web site at: www.usfirst.org.

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