A different year, a different game, different strategy – about the only thing that will be the same for Team SCREAM as it heads into the 2015 FIRST Robotics Competition season is its quest to return to the world championships for a third consecutive year.

Members of Team SCREAM – Smith-Cotton Robotics, Engineering and Mathematics – gathered Saturday morning in the Heckart Performing Arts Center for the global simulcast of the “reveal” of this year’s challenge, “Recycle Rush.” For the game, FIRST teams are tasked with building robots over the next six weeks that will stack plastic containers and recycling bins, pick up swimming pool noodles and deposit the noodles into the recycling bins or into an area designated as a “landfill.” They will work in three-team alliances to score points; members of alliances that win regional competitions will advance to the FIRST World Championships in St. Louis. Last year, Team SCREAM won the Oklahoma Regional for the “Aerial Assist” competition to earn its ticket to the championships.

Michael Wright, instructional technology teacher at Smith-Cotton and coach of Team SCREAM, said he is “still trying to process” this year’s game, which “looks very different than what we are used to.”

“This game looks like there are a lot of different ways to play it, and it will be interesting to see what our strategy is going to be, what we think will make us competitive,” Wright said.

A few of the key changes are the elimination of size and weight restrictions for robots, bumpers are not mandated and the need to interact with alliance robots has been minimized. The new landscape left Wright with some questions.

“How much cooperation is going to be there? How much are we going to have to depend on our alliance? At first sight, it looks like you can do your own thing and do really well. But who knows? We could get a week into this thing and then have this ‘a-ha’ moment that changes our whole strategy,” Wright said.

Team captain Levi Anderson, a junior, said the six-week period to build the robot “is going to be a big blur. I am going to have no sleep and no time for myself, but it is going to be fun.”

Wright was pleased with Saturday’s turnout, which included not only Team SCREAM members but also parents, mentors, school administrators and the Burger Bots, Warrensburg High’s robotics team. But Wright was especially thankful to see many of the team’s sponsors. Ditzfeld Transfer, which has supported the team since its inception, has cleared space in its warehouse to allow Wright’s students to set up a practice field.

“From the looks of this game, we will be spending a lot of time there,” Wright said.

“We get so much support and so many funds from different sponsors,” Anderson said. “We would not be able to do even a quarter of what we are able to do without the sponsors.”

Junior Erica Shaw joined Team SCREAM this year because her brother, Mitchell, who graduated in 2014, enjoyed his time on the team and because she enjoys math. She is on the strategy team and hopes to move to the scout team when the competition season starts.

“I’m excited, (this year’s game) looks like it will be a lot of fun,” she said, adding that she is looking forward to “working together as a team, working together to build something great.”

(Courtesy of Sedalia School District)