A group of high school students here is preparing for a world championship.

The West Carrollton Pirate Robotics team recently qualified to compete against 300 teams from around the world in the FIRST Robotics competition in Detroit, Michigan April 25-28.

Described as “a varsity sport for the mind,” FIRST Robotics competitors receive their challenge in January and then spend six weeks creating a robot and marketing plan to meet the challenge’s criteria.

Each week for much of the school year, the West Carrollton team met several times after school and on weekends to design, fundraise, build and promote.

Zoe Bowman, a freshman at West Carrollton said the team members each worked in different roles.

“It took a few weeks, but then everyone got into the swing of it and then we immediately knew what to do and how to work things,” she said.

During a regional competition at the Wright State Nutter Center in early March, the team earned 7th place in the first round and finished 45th place overall.

The team advanced to playoffs in Pittsburgh, ranked 35th out of 52 teams after the qualification matches. In the playoffs there, the Pirates took second place in one category, lost one match and eventually won the event.

Mason Jones, a West Carrollton sophomore, is competing in his second season with the team.

“My favorite part is definitely competition,” he said. “You get to see all of your hard work pay off and you get to meet teams from all over the world. It’s just really fun.”

During the season, students receive mentorship from teachers and local professionals. The mission of FIRST is to inspire participants to be science and technology leaders and innovators.

Coach and West Carrollton teacher Michael Neal said, “They’re building confidence by building something and making something themselves. They’re learning real skills from professional engineers. It’s just a really cool experience for the kids that’s outside of the classroom.”

Fellow coach and teacher Emily McGuff added, “It’s been amazing to watch come in… knowing very little, and then be able to make a presentation and do all of these things that show our community what we can do.”

The team is still hoping to raise more funds to cover its travel and competition expenses.

You can donate and learn more here.