ST. LOUIS — Despite some continued technical difficulties, the Helena Robotics Team won its first matches at the Friday at the FIRST World Championships at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

Helena’s team gave it a valiant effort, but they didn’t score enough points or win enough matches to get selected to be in an alliance for the final matches. Only the top 12 teams out of 128 are going on to the finals.

In the first match, Helena’s robot burned out two motors and lost a wireless connection. The team made some adjustments and ended up winning the second match despite losing connection again.

Ryan Brand, a freshman at Helena High, was the driver for three of the matches over the past two days and was delighted to win a match despite how intimidating the competition is (11,000 students from 29 countries are involved).

“We are a relatively small team from a small town in Montana and we don’t have enormous funding,” Brand said. “Our team is successful because of our spirit and our ability to work together.”

HHS freshman Mark Sargent said winning feels good considering all the challenges the team has faced since it began on Wednesday.

Back in the pits, the team moved the wireless unit higher hoping it would prevent any wires from being pinched and to improve communications with the controllers.

What works well in the practice fields doesn’t always mean the same for the competition matches where there are thousands of wireless communications all at once.

But what really eliminated the problem was when programmer and HHS freshman Bridger Howell and the robot worked perfectly in the final autonomous match. Howell determined that there was one line of code misplaced — a tiny error — in the software.

“It worked perfectly because we figured out the problem,” Capital High senior Anita Ratcliff said.

They lost the match by only two points.

Although the team

didn’t make it into the final matches, they ended on the high note knowing they problem-solved to compete with a robot that was functioning well.

“We are sad we didn’t get in, but glad it worked,” Sargent said.

Exhausted by early evening, the team was still talking about ways to improve the robot, proving their dedication until the bitter end.

Reporter Alana Listoe: 447-4081 or





(4) comments


I think that these kids are Awesome! Great job to the Helena Robotics Team!!


I particularly appreciate any newspaper that reports this kind of thing. This small story might easily be the most important article of the year for the Independent.

In a world of advancing poverty and hunger, these competitors are preparing themselves to be of value to all. We can't have everybody being freeloaders. I am delighted that people study robotics.

Thanks, IR. Thanks kids. Thanks teacher.


Great work by Helena students !!


Excellent work Helena students.

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