Utah’s 2019 Regional FIRST® Robotics Competition

March 26, 2019 — They call themselves the Cottonwood High School Underdogs, but this band of brilliant and determined students isn’t planning to compete like underdogs.

The squad of 14 students is not only the Murray, Utah, high school’s first robotics team to compete in the annual FIRST Robotics Competition Utah Regional event at the Maverik Center, but it is made up of nearly all refugee students. And though these students may come from different countries all over the world, they all share two things in common: They came to America to seek better opportunities for themselves and their families, and they are all working hard to be part of a winning team, says their coach, Yuri Perez.

“Their vocabulary has increased. Their confidence has increased,” Perez, a Cottonwood High science and math teacher for the English As a Second Language program, says about how the students are benefitting being on the team. “It has helped them develop their skills and to express their ideas because they are working as a team.”

The Underdogs are one of 50 high school teams from as far away as Mexico and China who will be competing in this year’s event. The two-day competition will be held Friday, March 29, and Saturday, March 30, in the Maverik Center’s main arena at 3200 S. Decker Lake Drive. The event, co-organized by the University of Utah’s College of Engineering, is free and open to the public.

This year’s game is called “Destination: Deep Space” and involves high school teams designing and building robots that collect “planetary samples” in the form of rubber balls, which they store in cargo pods. But it won’t be easy. The students must also partly perform this task blind when a “sandstorm” blows across the playing field and blinders are lowered to block their view. That’s when the teams must either use code to autonomously run their robots or manually guide them with a video system.

“Students achieve things that seemed unimaginable to them — whether it is designing and programming a climbing robot, a robot manipulator, or a computer vision algorithm for autonomous driving,” says University of Utah mechanical engineering associate professor Mark Minor, who is also the event chair. “Students learn to invent, communicate and become leaders. They thrive in college, start their own companies and become the next generation of innovators.”

The Cottonwood High Underdogs is comprised of 14 students, all but one who are refugees from countries including Haiti, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Nepal, Somalia and Iraq.

“I joined the team to learn about technology and be involved in STEM because we are living in the 21st Century,” says team captain Abdul Bari Ayubi, who came to America with his family from Kabul, Afghanistan, and hopes to be a doctor. “Each day we learn something, and we all come together as a team.”

So far, the rookie team has received a $6,000 scholarship from Utah FIRST Robotics to help them with their first robot, and they are being mentored by a student team from the charter school, Academy for Math, Engineering & Science (AMES), which has a satellite campus at Cottonwood High School.

Teams that win the Utah regional competition as well as select award winners will move on to the FIRST national championship held April 17-20 in Houston and April 24-27 in Detroit. In all, about 100,000 high school students from around the world will participate in this year’s competition, which is in its 28th year.

The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition helps promote and foster science and technology learning among the nation’s high school students, creating a new generation of engineers, programmers and scientists. Each year, the competition takes on a different theme, and the nature of the game changes.

Along with the University of Utah’s College of Engineering, the event’s sponsors include the Larry H. and Gail Miller Family Foundation (Founding Sponsor), L3 Technologies, Marathon Petroleum, Dominion Energy, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Argosy Foundation, Overdeck Foundation, Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Rockwell Collins, STEM Action Center, and Key Bank.

Media Coverage

Awards – March 29 & 30

An asterisk denotes a team or contestant who qualified for the FIRST Championship 2019® in Houston, Texas.

Regional Chairman’s Award Team 3478*
PrepaTec – LamBot
Engineering Inspiration Award Team 3374*
Jackson Hole RoboBroncs
FIRST Dean’s List Finalist Award Trinity Mauer
Team 6411*
Jordan High

America Martinez-Cariollo
Team 3374*

Regional Winners Team 3478*
PrepaTec – LamBot

Team 971*
Spartan Robotics

Team 4738*

Regional Finalists Team 5933*
JudgeMent Call

Team 1700*

Team 4068
Palmer Ridge BEARbotics

Team 3243*

Woodie Flowers Finalist Award Carolos Arce-Larreta
Team 3006
Red Rock Robotics
Safety Award sponsored by Underwriters Laboratories Team 3006
Red Rock Robotics
Industrial Design Award sponsored by General Motors Team 5933
JudgeMent Call
Highest Rookie Seed Award Team 7906
Judges’ Award Team 3243
Rookie All-Star Award Team 7906*
Rookie Inspiration Award sponsored by National Instruments Team 7909*
GTI WingNuts
Entrepreneurship Award sponsored by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Team 399
Eagle robotics
Team Spirit Award sponsored by FCA Foundation Team 4585
Husky Robotics
Excellence in Engineering Award sponsored by Delphi Team 4944
The Hi Fives
Gracious Professionalism® Award sponsored by Johnson & Johnson Team 5430
Pirate Robolution
Creativity Award sponsored by Xerox Team 4388
Quality Award sponsored by Motorola Solutions Foundation Team 2102
Team Paradox
Innovation in Control Award sponsored by Rockwell Automation Team 971
Spartan Robotics
Autonomous Award sponsored by Ford Team 1339
Imagery Award
In Honor of Jack Kamen
Team 3255
Super NURDs
Volunteer of the Year Award Judy Young



The Competition: Destination: Deep Space