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Unified Robotics competes in state championship

Katie Read Kearney, Copy Editor

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For the second consecutive year the Pacific Science Center hosted the Special Olympics Unified Robotics Championship. Forty Unified Robotics teams from Washington State schools participated in the tournament-style competition. Prior to the tournament, participating teams had a six-week building period in which they designed and autonomously programed their robots.

This is Ballard’s second year participating in the event and second year having a Unified Robotics club. Robyn Maddess, the advisor for Unified Robotics, oversaw the building sessions on Thursdays leading up to the event, along with the Unified Robotics Coach, José Oglesby.

Sophomore Wyatt Gowen prepares his robot to compete on Claiborne Field. Approximately 3,000 people were in attendance at the Special Olympics Unified Robotics Championship. (Katie Read Kearney)

In an e-mail interview Maddess described the Unified Robotics program and its value to participating students. “Unified Robotics is designed to bring students with and without disabilities together to design and build robots and then compete using the robots they have created,” Maddess said. “Students with disabilities often do not have the same access to STEM as their typically functioning peers. Unified Robotics promotes STEM and encourages creative thinking and problem solving.”

Unified Robotics was first pioneered by Delaney Foster in 2015, a King’s High School student. An advocate of inclusive education, Foster and her robotics teammates collaborated with students with special needs attending Roosevelt High School to build robots.

Teams competed in one of four divisions. The top two teams that won their division moved on to compete in the quarterfinals held in the PACCAR IMAX Theater.

Sophomore Wyatt Gowen Swanson and junior Pepper Swanson designed “A Pair of Sox,” one of the competing robots that advanced to the quarter-finals and came in third. “[A Pair of Sox] was completely her design. A lot of other teams they designed [their robots] based on what they knew would win,” Gowen said. “You saw a lot of the same design over and over again, but [A Pair of Sox] was completely unique.”

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Unified Robotics competes in state championship