Klamath County Robotics Tournaments Kick Off Sunday

October 23, 2020

The Klamath County Robotics Tournaments is on! Go teams!

Basin Bash VEX League only league in the state offering in-person competitions

Nine Klamath County high school robotics teams will compete in the first of four tournaments Sunday as part of the Basin Bash VEX League. The Klamath County league is offering the only in-person robotics tournaments for students this fall in Oregon.

Because of the pandemic, Basin Bash VEX League is open only to Klamath County School District high school teams at this time. Spooktacular, the first of four competitions will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 25, at Mazama High School.

Spectators are not allowed, but are invited to watch the event on Facebook Live. The final tournament – the New Year Knockout on Jan. 22 – will be the league championship.

At this first scrimmage, five teams from Mazama and four teams from Henley will compete. Teams from Lost River and Bonanza are expected to compete at the next three events.

Laura Nickerson, teacher and robotics coach at Mazama, is organizing the Basin Bash League’s in-person tournaments. All other events in Oregon are being conducted virtually.

COVID-19 case rates prevent Henley and Mazama students from attending school in person, however, exceptions are made for CTE (career and technical education) courses. Students at Lost River and Bonanza schools are attending in-person classes because the small, rural schools qualify to open under state exception metrics.

Mazama High School’s advanced robotics students are allowed to come into the classroom to work a few days a week on the days they don’t have online courses. Nickerson also hosts all-team Zoom meetings every other week so students can share progress, critique and socialize. Henley High School’s robotics club meets in-person on Fridays, said Kristi Lebkowsky, a Henley teacher and robotics coach. The number of Henley teams participating this year has doubled from last year.

“So far it’s going very well. Robotics, as well as other hands-on classes like manufacturing, foods and auto, are very important during COVID-19, and providing this opportunity for hands-on learning has been a relief to these students,” Nickerson said. “It has provided increased academic motivation and improved their mental health. Although it is dramatically different than in the past, these interactions are very valuable. I’m thankful I get to spend this time with my students. You don’t realize how much you loved teaching kids in person until it’s not an option.”

Kristi Lebkowsky, Henley’s robotics coach, agreed.

“I am so excited that our high school robotics students in Klamath County have the opportunity to continue competing in robotics,” she said. “They have worked so hard to design, build, and code their robots. Even during this crazy time we are working hard to expand our programs and student opportunities, and we are doing all of this while adhering to all COVID regulations. It might take a little more effort to make it happen but it is worth it.”

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