TROY, Ohio (WDTN) – A group of teenagers here might be among the brightest inventors of their age in the Midwest. Seven Troy-area students are gearing up to compete in a regional robotics tournament March 15th-17th in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The 5140 WACO Aerobotics Team advanced from state championships to qualify for the Super-Regional Championships for the FIRST Tech Challenge.
During the year long program, teams receive mentorship from industry professionals and use STEM skills to design, program and manufacture robots to complete specific tasks. The robots in this year’s FIRST Tech Challenge must move and stack blocks around a large playing field.
Dave Barth, a robotics professor at Edison State Community College, is leading the group of 13-17 year olds in the process.
The team members include Arabella Partee, 14, of Casstown, and Isaac Partee, 14, of Casstown, Jarod Savard, 14, of Enon, David Vance, 15, of Troy, Drake Beatty, 14, of Troy, Cassie Lovelock, 13, of Donnellsville, and Noah Lovelock, 15, of Donnellsville.
The students are mostly home-schooled and recently have been spending several hours a day, up to six days per week, fine-tuning their robot for the Super-Regional competition.
Arabella Partee, 14, a driver and business administrator for the team, explained, “We have a mechanical drive train that allows it to go forward, backward, side-to-side and straight. It has intake wheels… and we have a mechanism to lift them onto a platform and flip them into the ‘crypto box.’”
Some of the team members specialize in certain aspects like computer-drafting, programming or design.
Jarod Savard, 14, said the program matches his interest in engineering.
“I love to build stuff,” Savard said.
It the team does well in Cedar Rapids, the students could advance to the FTC World Championships in Detroit in April.
“I think we better make it there. I the we’ve got good chances,” said Isaac Partee, 17, a programmer for the team.
Aside from spending time building the robot, the team has invested at least 650 hours this year giving presentations, going to workshops and demos, volunteering at events and teaching STEM classes to other students.
Aside from competition, experience and resume fodder, the students said the program is giving them practical career skills.
Partee said, “I think in the future technology is only going to become more and more important for careers. And I think this is really going to help me long-term.”
5140 WACO is sponsored in part by the WACO Air Museum, but the team is still actively fundraising.
If you’d like to donate to help cover its expenses, click here.