DOWNEY – Fresh off their phenomenal performance at the Los Angeles Regional FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC), the Downey High School “Striking Vikings” Robotics team are now setting their sights towards Las Vegas and beyond.
The Vikings competed over the weekend, pitting their robot “Fear the Beard” against rookie and experienced teams alike, hailing from various schools across Southern California. They walked into the Long Beach Convention Center as rookies, however the Vikings quickly began turning heads.
“When I watched the whole team come together that weekend it was pretty amazing,” said Glenn Yamasaki, the DHS robotics teacher behind the team. “I mean we wanted to have a good competition; we wanted to be at least in the mid-range, because we knew we were going against so many pretty advanced teams. But there were some points we were ranked number one in the tournament on Friday…we were always in that top ten so that was above our expectations.”
The Vikings’ strong performance carried them into the quarterfinals. Though this is where the Vikings’ were eventually eliminated, their hard work and dedication earned them the Rookie All Star Award; a prestigious, “optional” award that is only given out if FIRST judges deem a team deserving of the honor.
“The Rookie All Star Award is given a team that is competing in the regional competition or any competition at FIRST that best exemplifies the mission of FIRST Robotics, which is to inspire the community through STEM education and STEM programs,” said senior team member Paul Shin.
“The judges can decide, if they see that no rookie team deserves this award, they don’t have to give it out,” added senior Spencer Farina. “So they saw that we had deserved the award.”
The Rookie All Star Award also acts as Downey’s “golden ticket” to FRC World Championships, which are being held in St. Louis Missouri in just over a month.
Before heading to the World Championships though, the Striking Vikings are turning their heads towards Las Vegas, where they will compete on an even more international scale.
However the team agrees that winning the Rookie All Star Award takes a gigantic load off their shoulders. Originally, the Vikings’ Las Vegas bid was a “last shot” at qualifying for a World Championship opportunity.
“Now that we know that we’re a really competitive team – and that we’re a winning team – we’re going to go into Vegas more confident and more ready to win, and more prepared for our world championship in St. Louis,” said senior Adriana Cardenas
The next hurdle for the Vikings is funding the eventual trip to St. Louis. Yamasaki estimates that it will cost roughly $1000 per student. Currently the team has 33 students.
The Striking Vikings already has some support from Downey Unified School District and their multiple sponsors, however they are currently looking for more help from other sponsorships and donations to help cover the expenses that a trip to the World Championships would cost. Currently the Striking Vikings are sponsored by South Pacific Steel and Tubing, Gaucho Grill, Cartozian Associates, Preferred Impressions, Kiwanis Foundation, BAD Enterprises, RPM 12, Stauffer Foundation, Downey Federal credit Union, NASA, Stay Gallery, and YamoNautics.
Yamaskai has already had to make a $5,000 deposit just to register for the event. In total, the team needs to raise around $35,000 in under a month in order for the entire team to go to St. Louis.
“If we’re not able to raise all that money, unfortunately not all of our team members can go and experience that international competition that we all worked so hard to compete with,” said Shin “…we want to reach out to all the local sponsors, or local community organizations or businesses or whatever in the community, and if they feel like they want an avenue or a channel where they can donate their money to a positive cause, especially through inspiring students, through education, through science, technology, engineering and mathematics, that want to put in investments for the future, through the future generations through STEM education, we’re literally reaching out our arms right now and asking for any donation possible that can possibly help our team move on to the World Championships."
For more information on the Striking Vikings and how to support their program visit their website at team5851.com, or follow their social media outlets on Twitter and Instagram at @team5851 and @strikingvikings respectively.