Bunnies and robots are an unlikely combination to most people. However for FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1432, “Team Metal Beavers,” it is time for the high stakes preseason robotics competition called BunnyBots.
Each fall, all the robotics teams from Portland and the Pacific Northwest region begin three months of work on their robots, during which the teams will design, build, and test their robots to complete certain challenges.
Team Metal Beavers used to be associated with Franklin High School, but they were forced to break ties with it due to the lack of a club adviser. Now, they’ve set up shop at the Ivanhoe Lodge owned by the Oregon Knights of Pythias. Franklin senior, team captain, and veteran member JR Surban said, “They provide the space where we can work free of charge. We’ve been working with them for a couple years and we are thankful for their help.”
The team has some sponsors, including Boeing and FreeGeek, but not as many as other larger teams. Some of the very best teams in the region can get five to ten thousand dollar contributions from half a dozen sponsors.
“It puts us at a disadvantage. The more money a team has, they will generally do better,” Surban said.
The team placed seventh at last December’s BunnyBots competition. Surban says that they could’ve done better, but they had to forgo a key piece of hardware.
“We weren’t able to add a collector for the plush bunnies because it was too hard and too expensive to make. We ran out of time,” he explained. A bunny collector would’ve given them the ability to score more points. “We just don’t have enough people this year.”
While Team Metal Beavers may be at a size and funding disadvantage, they’re still able to perform well at competitions. “We’ve been one of the top ten teams whenever we have competed and we usually make the playoffs. Maybe we have been lucky, but I don’t know,” he said.
Including Surban, the team has a total of five members. A significant portion of them had left a couple years ago when the club broke away from the school. Now, the team is a mixture of students from Franklin and various private schools.
Going into the first robotics competition of 2019, Surban feels confident that their team can win. “Because this is my last year, I really want for the team to win a competition. I think that we can pull it off, but it will take a lot of work.”