Aurora -- It's been a whirlwind season for three Aurora High School robotics team members, who claimed the distinction of being second best in the world at a recent competition in St. Louis.

Team TBD (To Be Determined) members are sophomores Ian Doemling, Jared Ruehr and Tyler Thieding.

"They are viewed throughout the state and region as leaders in this program, inspiring younger and even experienced teams to continuously improve," coach Darren Thieding said.

"All three are honor students and challenge themselves academically -- each take multiple Advanced Placement classes while juggling other activities including band, orchestra, sports and scouting.

"They competed with the best in the world this year while maintaining their excellent grade-point averages."

The coach said the boys exemplify the core values of the competition, called FIRST, including gracious professionalism -- "a way of doing things that encourages high-quality work, emphasizes the value of others, and respects individuals and the community."

Doemling said it was "extremely exciting" to have done so well. "Seeing the many thousands of hours we spent result in such a great finish to the season is especially gratifying," he said.

"I'm extremely proud and excited to have placed so well," Ruehr said.

"Being successful at such a high-level tournament was a great way to wrap up the season," Tyler Thieding said. "Being consistently ranked high on the scoreboard was very exciting."

It was a long yet productive season.

Robot general design and building occurred from September to December, while the team logged more than 3,500 miles during the last four months traveling to various competitions to places like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Millersville, Pa., Scranton, Pa., and finally St. Louis on April 22-25 for the world championship.

The winning team was the Neutrinos from Lakeland, Fla.

Team TBD had the highest winning percentage -- 94.4 percent -- of any unit throughout four super-regionals and the world championship.

TYLER THIEDING said he believes the team did so well "because of the time we put into design, construction and programming."

"The time and dedication we put into our robot allows us to create one that performs very well," he said. "We really took the time to continuously improve upon our designs by evaluating the robot's performance and reliability."

Doemling said the team members "think about the challenge, evaluate potential solutions and design a robot that can solve the challenge efficiently and completely. That ensures we'll have a robot that is reliable and robust.

"We are all friends who have known each other since second grade," he said. "We can work well together while having fun at the same time."

Ruehr said they designed their robot "to perform all of the required tasks. We were able to work with any team under any circumstances. Flexibility was key to our success."

Assistant coach Joe Doemling said the boys "have proved themselves by working through adversity while maintaining an unforgiving schedule. They've put in many hours planning, designing, building, programming and practicing with the robot."

The object of this year's game called "Cascade Effect" was to score more points than an opponent by placing balls into rolling goals and then moving the goals into scoring areas, Darren Thieding said. Points can also be awarded when balls are scored into a center goal.

Each match is 2 minutes, 30 seconds. The first 30 seconds is called the "autonomous period," when the robot operates by itself to score points. The remaining time is a driver-controlled period where two drivers maneuver the robot using joysticks to score points.

Prior to match play, teams go through a 20-minute judging interview with a panel of two or three judges. The teams' engineering notebook is also evaluated, and judges observe teams' performance through match play.

The panel of judges determines winners of nine award categories.

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