The South Carroll High School robotics team secured a fourth-place finish in the FIRST Robotics World Championship in Detroit, triumphing over most of the 160 teams gathered from around the world.
The team has gone to the state championships every year since 2012, when it started, but this was the group’s first time going to the FIRST, or For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology, world championship. The competition was held from April 24 through 27.
SC RoboCavs Gold is captained by senior Mat Erickson and includes senior Drew Melis, senior Matthew Dolecki, junior Aiden Yeo and sophomore Meredith Eller. The team is supervised by math teacher Sean Lee and his father, Thomas Lee.
Both coaches place the credit for the high finish on the hard work of the students.
“They had like ice in their veins,” Thomas said. “They were really cool out there, ready for battle. Knowing not just how to perform but how to strategize what to spend their time on and what to spend the money on.”
The team receives a challenge every September and they have to build a robot to complete that challenge and get the most points doing it.
Students on the robotics team gain much more than just trophies and accolades through what they learn.
“The seniors that we have, have been with us for four years. So, we’ve been able to teach them just about everything they need to know to become full-fledged engineers,” Thomas said. “These kids probably have the curriculum of a second-year college education just by working with us two engineers every day for two hours the entire year.”
Sean has a mechanical engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and Thomas has an electrical engineering degree from Western Poly Tech and a computer engineering degree from the University of Maryland.
To prepare for the championship, the team committed to working, planning and strategizing three times a week for two hours. Some even dropped from their athletics teams to concentrate on building for the robotics team.
The Roar of the Robots, a multi-grade level local competition, brought out teams that demonstrated their STEM skills and teamwork with homemade robots that solved problems of an extraterrestrial scale.
According to Sean, from the over 20 students that have participated in the robotics program, all but about two have moved on to study in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The team will face significant turnover next year, with three of the team members graduating. To make it to a world competition next year, Sean plans on trying to get more word out on the robotics team and to get more students involved.
“These kids have done it all,” Sean said. “They are so smart and so passionate and it’s so neat to see what they’ve done. I’m very proud for them and glad — you couldn’t ask for a better group of kids.”