Robotics rule: A blue ribbon effort – with infrared

Congratulations to the Hood River Valley High School FTC robotics team, which has now established a Northwest presence, following its victory at the Idaho State First Technology Challenge event on Feb. 15.

The win comes two weeks before the Oregon championships, and qualifies the team for a trip to the Super Regional in Sacramento, Calif., March 20-22.

Team members are Taylor Cramer, Tony Cohn, Marten Sova, Marcus Crouch, Naomi Greenwald, Delia Dolan, Sam Wiley, Connor Dunn, Josh True and Martin Lanthaler, all seniors. (Lanthaler is an exchange student from Italy.)

The team’s goal is the World Championship in Atlanta, Ga.

Most of us haven’t had a chance to see the robot in action, but in a nutshell, this is what the team can make this nimble and sophisticated device do in a two-minute period: An infrared sensor seeks out a randomly placed beacon, and drops a plastic cube in a box above it, then parks on a bridge. The robot drives around collecting plastic cubes and dropping them onto a teeter-totter with boxes on it. It also raises a flag, and hooks onto a metal pull up bar and lifts itself.

But the Idaho victory was more than what the team and its robot did on the course: teamwork, community service, and professionalism are critical elements in the Inspire award, which is the virtual championship, at Idaho.

The elder students take their knowledge on the road to younger robotics classes around the Gorge. It’s a mentorship that starts with advisor Jeff Blackman and other adult engineers, teachers and other volunteers who have nurtured this year’s seniors since they were in elementary and middle school. It’s all paying off in a big way for Hood River robotics.

Information on how to support the Blackhawks as they plan to travel to Super Regional can be found on page A1.

This is progressive, community-influenced learning at its finest.

Flags Lowered: Spc. John A. Pelham

Gov. John Kitzhaber today ordered all flags at public institutions to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Monday, Feb. 24, in honor of Army Specialist John A. Pelham of Portland.

“This is a tragic loss for Oregon, and we are indebted to Spc. Pelham for proudly serving our state and our nation,” said Kitzhaber. “My thoughts are with his family and his unit during this difficult time. I ask all Oregonians to pause on Monday to remember Spc. Pelham and honor both his sacrifice and his legacy of service.”

Spc. Pelham died on Feb. 12 in Kapisa Province, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered from enemy small arms fire. He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Fort Bragg.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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