MYRTLE BEACH — Robotics team members from the Academy for Technology and Academics have secured the first $5,000 of $20,000 needed to put them on the road to the FIRST Robotics Competition Championship and are seeking help to raise the additional $15,000.
The Conway academy’s Team Volt took the top spot at last weekend’s Palmetto Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, earning a spot at the championship in St. Louis April 24-27. The regional, which was held for the first time in Myrtle Beach, had a record 65 teams from 12 states, the District of Columbia and Brazil, with nine of the teams coming from the Horry County school district.
Horry County Schools is providing the $5,000 – the cost of the competition’s registration fee – from Career and Technology Education funds, which come to the district from the State Department of Education, said Teal Harding, HCS spokeswoman. The district has another team – the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology – which will compete March 14-16 at the N.C. regional in Raleigh for a championship spot, and Harding said the same would hold for AAST should they bring home a win.
ATA mentor Meredith Smith said the team is talking to companies about sponsorships and taking donations, and will have a variety of fundraisers to get the rest of the money needed for travel, lodging and other expenses. She said there are 10 members on the team, along with mentor Flint Mincey, and they want to make sure everyone can make the trip, because they are all deserving after an incredible win.
“We actually had a very disappointing weekend,” said Smith, who said their robot was performing, but the other two teams in their alliance brought their points total down to 60th place.
In the semi-finals, however, each of the top eight scoring teams choose two teams to form new alliances of three. ATA, AAST and Carolina Forest were all chosen by top teams, and ATA landed in the final with teams from Michigan and New Jersey.
“They recognized ours was a good, sound robot,” Smith said. “To go from 60th place to the winner was an amazing thing.”
The AAST team received the Innovation in Control Award at the regional event, where it came in fourth, and pre-engineering teacher and mentor Bucky Sellers said they did an outstanding job, despite a couple of programming glitches with the robot. He said those happened in the heat of competition, and they had to seal the robot to be sent to Raleigh. He said the team will be able to fix those flaws when they get the robot next Thursday and will have it ready to compete.
Sellers said they try to go to two competitions each year but missed last year and saved their money. Two years ago, AAST took second out of 55 teams, and Sellers said, “We’re going for the gold.”
Mark Kruea, spokesman for the city of Myrtle Beach, said the regional event was Nascar v. “The Big Bang Theory,” definitely something that’s hard to understand until you see it in action, but that it was extremely cool and far exceeded his expectations.
“We had 3,000 people, and it was standing room only,” said Kruea, who said the three-day event brought about $500,000 in direct spending to the area. “It was kind of an ideal event for us, plus a tremendous amount of fun.”
Kruea said the event was an opportunity to showcase the city to first-time visitors to Myrtle Beach, from families to the executives and mentors from the likes of Boeing and NASA who worked with the teams. He said he also has heard from locals who came out to watch the event and were impressed with what they saw.
Sellers said the planning committee already wants to meet in about three weeks to evaluate the event, but he said he has heard few complaints and many compliments, especially about the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, where there was plenty of space and few problems, especially with electronics and Wi-Fi. He said he also heard positive feedback from plenty of parents, who came down to the pit area during the event, wanting to know how to get their children into robotics.
For those whose interest in robotics has been piqued, the LEGO Robotics Challenge will be held for the third year at the Horry County Schools Technology Fair, which is set for March 27 at the convention center and, for the first time, will be held in conjunction with the Grand Strand Technology Expo. LEGO teams are made up of students younger than high school age, and Sellers said there will be around 30 teams participating this year. Those who missed last weekend’s regional also will be able to see the robots the Horry teams had in the regional last weekend – all except ATA’s, which is going to St. Louis, and AAST will provide a robot, even if they win next week.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.