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And their missions begin.

Robotics teams across the mid-valley celebrated the start of the new season Saturday.

They gathered at 6:30 a.m. in the LaSells Stewart Center at Oregon State University to learn about the 2013 For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Competition.

An hour later, their challenge for the competition was revealed: Create and build a robot that can pick up plastic discs, shoot the discs into goals and then climb a 10-foot pyramid.

“I was like ‘are you kidding,’” said Crescent Valley senior Kushal Agarwal, who is one of the team’s three managers. “We’ve done some similar things in the past, but it’s going to be tougher this year.”

Teams have six weeks to put together the robots and have them ready for the regional competition scheduled for March at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland. At that competition, the top two finishers qualify for the national tournament.

Crescent Valley, Corvallis, Philomath and Santiam Christian are Benton County high schools with robotics teams. In Linn County, South Albany, West Albany and Lebanon take part. The two Albany schools have a combined team.

And the early morning festivities were worth it for members of Crescent Valley’s robotics team.

“I’m feeling it a little bit,” said Crescent Valley sophomore Gil Parnon said of getting up at 6 a.m. “But I am pretty excited so that’s going to carry me through today.”

After picking up their robot kits from the Kelley Engineering Center at OSU, students returned to Crescent Valley to a hearty breakfast served by team parents and other volunteers.

Then it was right to work for the team, which is under the under the direction of first-year coach Jim Bowey. This year’s robotics team features 43 students, ranging freshmen to seniors.

The students are helped by 15 mentors, who include local engineers and scientists, as well as former team members.

Michael Anderson, a 2012 Crescent Valley graduate and two-year member of the school’s robotics team, is one of the mentors this year. He’s a a freshman at Oregon State majoring in electrical and computer engineering. He also works in a robotics lab at Oregon State.

“It feels good to be giving back to something that did so much for me,” Anderson said.

Team managers Agarwal, Damian Kulp and Allison Lind spent most of the late morning discussing strategy with the team, including what areas the robot should focus on and the point-scoring breakdown for the regional competition.

Later during the afternoon, team members broke into smaller groups to discuss the disc-shooting and pyramid-climbing components more specifically.

Bowey said that team is scheduled to meet from 5 to 9 p.m. on school days and 1 to 8 p.m. Sunday up through the regional competition.

The Crescent Valley robotics team has built two robots already this school year, including a cannon that was used to fire T-shirts into the crowd at several football games. And Bowey said working on those robots helped prepare the team for its latest challenge.

“It helped our student leaders learn to lead and direct better,” Bowey said. “Then it showed our younger team members what’s expected of them and how to do certain things. It was nice because there were no deadlines. Now there is. It’s going to be fun.”

Raju Woodward can be contacted at 541-758-9526 or

Raju Woodward is the K-12 education reporter for the Gazette-Times. He can be reached at 541-758-9526 or