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Robotics student Alex Gonzalez works outside TDHS as darkness falls, preparing for the upcoming VEX Robotics tournament Saturday, Nov. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 pm at Gateway Church and streamed live at www.facebook.com/Wasco-County-4-H-Oregon-156163291073628.

Robotics students from The Dalles will host their first remote VEX robotics tournament, “Salute to Service,” Saturday, Nov. 21. The event will be live streamed via the Wasco County 4-H Facebook page.

With COVID-19 and the 2020 game theme, “Change Up,” the program has flexed like never before.

“This year of Robotics has been nothing like we have ever experienced,” said TDHS senior and team captain Keon Kiser. “It is very interesting and somewhat fun to do things differently than before, with new distancing policies. This circumstance is making us adapt and explore different strategies that we would have never come up with before. It is a great learning experience.”

Similarly, the tournament will look very different due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tournament organizer and 4-H instructor Lu Seapy said teams will have a field set against them that they need to clear and then fill with their alliance color. They will be racing against the clock. One team will be competing on the field at a time.

Teams can also record their stop time with this game, adding another level of difficulty. The shorter time needed to complete the task, the higher the team will rank.

Seapy said the competitive robotics season has looked very different this year. “We meet only outside. Team members are encouraged to take the robots home with them and build modularly, so that each student can be involved in one part of the construction or programming of the robot,” said Seapy.

Each team member has their own tool kit and work areas are spread out. “Now that the weather is turning, it’s really getting tricky,” said Seapy.

“Despite all the challenge this year has presented, students are still enjoying being part of a robotics program, masks and all,” said coach and 4-H educator Dale Hammack.

Because the event is virtual, with each team competing on their own field, students from The Dalles will face off with highly competitive teams from California and Washington. “For our first tournament of the year, we are likely to see some strong robot performances,” said Seapy.

The tournament will be held at Gateway Church but streamed online at the Wasco County 4-H Facebook page (www.facebook.com/Wasco-County-4-H-Oregon-156163291073628) from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

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