CenturyLink was mobbed with "mathletes" huddled in pits, getting robots ready that students had six weeks to build after school.
"The first two weeks we spent arguing," admits one student competitor.
Teams from 64 high schools around the state put on their thinking caps - and sometimes bow ties.
"The suspenders, yeah, it's just a geeky thing we do," says Jacob Foster.
To enter this first game - robots had to shoot Frisbees into small openings or climb a metal pyramid - or both.
"We figured if we could shoot really, really well, climbing won't be very important," says Maggie Fagan, a sophomore at Newport High School.
Together, the teens troubleshoot.
"It can take all day to get some of these particularly rookies inspected," says Inspector John Oman.
But once they pass the lengthy checklist and weigh-in - mechanical March Madness begins.
The high-schoolers are competing for more than a title and a shot at next month's nationals.
"The colleges, the universities are screaming for kids that come out of this program," says Oman.
Some $16 million in scholarships are on the table - a celebration of smarts with eyes on the future that helps teens fit in today.
"They find that all of a sudden they're on a team, they've got a T-shirt, they've got a nickname, they've got a mascot, they kind of walk the halls at school with a little swagger that they didn't have before," says Michael Campbell, executive director of Washington First Robotics.
And that builds robots and confidence at the same time.