The “Mountain Madness” event attracted students from Anderson, Redding, Shasta Lake, and Palo Cedro to compete against DHS students, who gained a lot of experience from hosting their first tournament, said DHS robotics department head Kurt Champe.

Teenagers from eight northern California high schools and organizations descended on Dunsmuir High School Saturday as the school hosted its first VEX Robotics Tournament in the gymnasium.

The “Mountain Madness” event attracted students from Anderson, Redding, Shasta Lake, and Palo Cedro to compete against DHS students, who gained a lot of experience from hosting their first tournament, said DHS robotics department head Kurt Champe.

Brian Grigsby, head of the robotics program at Shasta High School in Redding, is also the founder of the regional VEX robotics program. He noted that VEX is a global program and that Dunsmuir’s competition is one of several regional tournaments that ultimately determine which teams will continue on to the State Championships and later, at the international level.

Saturday’s tournament featured the game “Tower Takeover,” in which remote-controlled robots attempt to stack as many five and a half inch cubes into their goal zones as possible. There were also seven towers in each of the 12 by 12 foot playing fields, into which the robots could place a cube in the tower to multiply the value of the points of the cubes stacked in the goal zone.

For the tournament to run smoothly and efficiently, there were four fields set up in the gym, with a three-man reset crew of student volunteers who reset the cubes on the field after each match. Volunteers, Noah Snell, Elias Wilson, and Gabe Hernandez worked all day and said they were earning community service hours towards graduation. DHS robotics students volunteered as referees for all of the matches.

The tournament drew an audience comprised primarily of family and friends of the students. However, one gentleman sitting in the bleachers – Dunsmuir resident Mark Ostrum, a retired computer consultant and an avid proponent of technology – came out to watch.

“I’d rather watch this than football,” said Ostrum, who added that he has been watching and filming robotics events for 15 years.

“The VEX is a good introduction to robotics for the kids,” he said.

Robots used in VEX tournaments are built from kits, and have strict rules as to size and other criteria. During Saturday’s tournament, one of the robots was disqualified because it was over the maximum size allowed. Its builders took the robot back to their work station and had to make modifications so it could still compete.

Each of the student-built robots took many hours to complete. Freshman Tanner Evanson and sophomore Zander Grah from Palo Cedro’s Build It 319 robotics team said it took them two to three months to build their robot.

“We worked 65 hours on it, last month alone,” said Evanson.

Victoria Cox and Noah Lockwood from Shasta Charter Academy in Redding, said they had been working five hours a week on their robot since the first week of September, spending an approximate total of 130 hours on their project.

Champions of Saturday’s competition was the Anderson Robotics team 12500B from Anderson High School, and the Shasta Robots team 9328Y from Shasta High School.

Taking home the Mountain Madness VEX Robotics Excellence Award was Anderson High School Robotics Team 12500X, comprised of Samuel Loureiro and Sarun “Rew” Thongchanthra.

All the winners are now eligible for the California State Robotics Championships.

Several other recognitions and prizes were also awarded as part of the competition.

According to the stats posted at the national Robotics Education & Competition Foundation’s website, RobotEvents.com, Dunsmuir Tigers’ A team ranked 7th (out of 18 teams) in skills.