The hometown team didn’t get the blue banner it was after, but the home town got blue-ribbon raves from teams and organizers for the inaugural FIRST Robotics Central Missouri Regional held April 5-7 at Smith-Cotton High School in Sedalia.

Sedalia 200 says Smith-Cotton’s Team SCREAM was captain for the No. 2 alliance heading into Sunday afternoon’s playoffs, but lost in the semifinals to the alliance went on to capture the blue champions banner, the No. 6 alliance of Broncobots, Lee’s Summit North; Kuhnigits, The Barstow School of Kansas City; and Channel Cats of O’Fallon. Team SCREAM’s alliance included Stealth Panther Robotics of Knob Noster and S.C.R.E.E.C.H. of Sapulpa, Okla.

“We were up against an alliance that we were pretty evenly matched with,” said Team SCREAM Head Coach Michael Wright. “They played really well. I think we played great, tried a little different strategy. This is a game of points; they were close matches, but we just didn’t have quite enough.”

Kent Werremeyer, a coach for Broncobots, agreed with Wright that many of the 36 teams competing in Sedalia were evenly matched.

“It was pretty solid all the way through,” Werremeyer said. “The competition all the way down to about 20 (teams) was really good.”

The winning alliance earned berths to play in the FIRST World Championships April 17-20 in Houston. Team SCREAM will compete there, too, having earned a wildcard berth two weeks ago at a regional in Olathe, Kan.

Wright said one of Sunday’s highlights was getting to team up with Stealth Panther Robotics.

“We love those guys, they are a lot of fun,” Wright said. “We’re really close, our kids know them really well. There was no question that is who we wanted to play with (in the playoffs). We complement each other. It’s nice when you go into alliance, knowing who you are with, that you can trust them.”

State Rep. Brad Pollitt was in attendance both Saturday and Sunday, taking in the action and talking with volunteers and regional officials. He referenced Missouri Gov. Mike Parson’s call for a special session last year to talk about STEM programs and said, “This is just an example of what kids can do and what a community can do when it comes together. One of the things we are working on in education is getting businesses involved in their communities and all of that is evident out here with all the teams — and especially in Sedalia.”

Mike Brouwer, who served as a field announcer for the Central Missouri Regional, wears a lot of hats for the KC STEM Alliance. He also is on the regional planning committee and trains all of the game announcers and emcees for the FIRST Kansas City’s events. He said this year, a change was made to switch from one large regional in Kansas City with more than 60 teams to three regionals – Kansas City, Olathe and Sedalia – with 36 teams each. The advantages are that more teams qualify for the FIRST World Championships and it provides an opportunity to spread FIRST to more communities.

“Of the three venues, this one was absolutely fantastic,” Brouwer said. “The setup was fantastic ... But beyond the facilities, the entire town rolled out the red carpet for us. Teams were saying there were signs at their hotels welcoming them; I was driving into town and there was a sign reading ‘Welcome robotics,’ and the sponsorships were really fantastic.”

Despite the playoff loss, Team SCREAM did have some moments to celebrate. It earned the Gracious Professionalism Award, in large measure for helping a rookie team assemble its robot when it arrived in pieces and got it running in time for the competition. Wright also was named a Woodie Flowers Award National Finalist; the honor is for outstanding adult coaches and mentors in the FIRST program. Wright was nominated by the students on his team.

“We started talking to people and learned how much of an impact (Wright) has had on our school, our engineering program as well as growing the team,” said senior Laura Haney, who led the nomination effort. “After we submitted our essay, we learned that he was doing so much more, even working with Rep. Pollitt for the entire state, which proved he deserved it even more. We’re just so happy that he was able to be appreciated like that.”

Wright said being named a Woodie Flowers finalist “is one of the coolest things that have ever happened to me. To know that the kids spent that much time and effort for me to be recognized, that it’s something they are so passionate about, it means the world to me. I love those kids and all they do for this team. They make this job and this thing we do totally worth it. I am just very honored, humbled and happy to be recognized.”

Pollitt is hopeful the first Central Missouri Regional leads to repeat performances.

“What an event – over 3,000 people come through,” he said. “We have the perfect setup and we’re hoping we get it back next year.”

Bouwer said he is “very confident they are going to put together an agreement to come back here next year.”

As his team was posing for photos with its championship banner, Werremeyer offered his praises, too.

“This was great, the city of Sedalia knocked it out of the park,” he said. “This venue and this high school and what Michael Wright has done for STEM in this area all have been fabulous.”

Wright saved his praise for Team SCREAM.

“I’m really proud of the drive team and how the robot performed. … I don’t know what else we could have asked for,” he said.

Information provided by Sedalia 200

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PIC 1: Team 1939, the Kuhnigits, move into drop a cargo ball into the cargo ship as Team 3931, the Cockadoodle Dominators, nearly tips over during the finals matchup Sunday at the FIRST Robotics Central Missouri Regional at Smith-Cotton High School. Team 1939's alliance won the best-of-three showdown, two matches to none.

PIC 2: SCREAMPanther: With Team SCREAM scout Aaron Emery, center, looking on, Jenna Moreland of Stealth Panther Robotics tells emcee Mike Brouwer that the Knob Noster team "graciously accepts" Team SCREAM's offer to be an alliance partner before Sunday's playoffs at the Central Missouri Regional.

PIC 3: Winners: Drive teams from Broncobots, Lee’s Summit North; Kuhnigits, The Barstow School of Kansas City; and Channel Cats of O’Fallon; celebrate after their winning score is posted on the video board.

PIC 4: Wright: Team SCREAM Head Coach displays his trophy and banner after being named a Woodie Flowers Award National Finalist at the Central Missouri Regional. The award recognizes outstanding adult coaches and mentors in the FIRST Robotics program.

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