Truckee High takes top spot in first home robotics meet

Hannah Jones
Truckee High School hosted its first-ever robotics meet last week, with the Truckee Talos taking first place and the Truckee Rolling Bots placing fourth out of 15 teams.
Kelli Twomey

Truckee High School hosted its first-ever robotics meet last week, with the Truckee Talos taking first place and the Truckee Rolling Bots placing fourth out of 15 teams.

This year’s challenge titled “Rover Ruckus,” tests the teams’ ability to design, build and program robots then operate them in a head-to-head challenge against other robots.

“We did a scrimmage last year just for practice but this is the first time we’ve actually hosted the meet,” said David Thornton, the high school’s team advisor and Introduction to Technology teacher. The school’s robotics program, made up of two different teams, is comprised of 20 students with 11 actively competing in the meets.

The high school’s cafeteria served as the competition site, with a ring set up in the center of the room for each of the team’s robots to compete against each other. The competition starts with two robots attached to a box in the center of the ring. The robots must autonomously lower themselves off the box and move around the ring to complete certain tasks.

“They get points for everything that the robot does,” said Thornton.

Roaming the cafeteria in striped referee shirts were University of Nevada, Reno students, who volunteered to serve as referees and judges for the event. Those student were also responsible for inspecting each robot as they must meet certain size and weight criteria before competing in the event.

Truckee’s team competed in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), Tech challenge, the third program in a progression of four geared for students ages 12 to 18. The programs are designed to spark students’ interests in science, technology, engineering and math, while integrating those skills into the construction of fully functioning robots.

“They really have to understand the fundamentals of programming to make the robot move,” said Thornton. “They could not make the robots move if they didn’t understand things like C++ programming.”

Thornton said, for example, that one of the robots had a gear malfunction, requiring the students to calculate gear ratios and figure out what was causing the problem.

“If they didn’t have the math, if they didn’t have the programming knowledge, they couldn’t make it happen,” he said.


Truckee High robotics program is only in its second year of operation, beginning the same year Thornton was hired as a technology teacher. As a Career Technical Pathways teacher in Riverside County for 22 years, Thornton said the technology program at Truckee High “is very different.”

“What I was teaching down there was computer applications including Microsoft Word, Excel and office type applications,” he said. “I get up here and I’m not teaching any of that. All the kids have been taught since grade school how to work the applications,” he said.

Thornton said his teaching strategy now involves him getting his hands on every piece of technology he can find, and introducing it to his students.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at or 530-550-2652.

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