The 25 best teams from across the state converged at Smith-Cotton High School Saturday, as the District hosted the FIRST Robotics State Championship.
The FIRST Stronghold competitive challenge saw teams maneuver their robots through obstacles while trying to capture and shoot balls “boulders” through openings in castle walls, and eventually positioning their robots to scale those castle walls in a medieval themed event.
Not only were some of the best high school scientific minds on hand at the competition but leaders from business and industry and the military also came to support the teams and encourage them to continue creating and promoting robotics.
“I want to encourage all of you to continue the work you are doing,” Brian Freeman of Tesla Motors,” told the students in the opening ceremonies Saturday morning. “We just came off the most successful product launch in U.S. history with our Model 3 and some of the innovations and technology came from individuals who began their careers in high schools just like you are doing here today.”
Another individual at the competition had a more personal and local connection to the event.
Brig. Gen. Major Paul Tibbets, commander of Whiteman Air Force Base was on hand to announce that Whiteman would be developing and sponsoring a FIRST Team at Knob Noster next year.
“I’m here today along with other members from Whiteman and the Knob Noster School District to feel out the process for who we can begin a program like this not only at the high school at Knob, but also how the Air Force can become associated with the FIRST program at the Youth Center on base,” Tibbetts told the Democrat. “Sixty percent of the students at Knob Noster are base children and so we know we have a lot of airmen and personnel who would be willing to be involved and serve as mentors in the project,”
“It’s a new program for both of us but I have been very impressed with the commitment of the students I have met and seen here today and with their willingness to mentor and help other teams grow which is such a good thing,” Tibbets said. “We have a very good idea of what we want to do; now we have to figure out how we get there.”
Five years ago, Smith-Cotton found themselves in the same position, knowing they wanted to be a part of the FIRST Robotics Program but knowing they had to build the program from the ground up.
“The district had been teaching some robotics classes for a number of years,” Michael Wright, Team SCREAM coach and Instructional Technology teacher said. “This is the fourth year we have been associated with FIRST Robotics and it has been an honor for me as a coach to watch the program build and develop in the way it has.
“We have been truly fortunate to have the backing and support of so many businesses and industries in Sedalia, Wright added. “We have also had the support of the school district, the parents and the community and we are extremely grateful for them all.
For Wright and the team, especially the senior members of Team SCREAM, Saturday was a bittersweet day filled with emotions.
It was the culmination of a season and a four year journey for the team and their coach, as Wright announced earlier this year that he would be leaving his position at S-C to accept the job of the CTC at State Fair Community College.
“It’s both a little scary and yet it’s also very exciting to be here today,” Levi Anderson, team captain and driver for Team SCREAM said during the exhibition round of the competition. “I know this is my last chance to win something as a part of this team, but it’s a robotic competition so what’s not to be excited about?
“This program has taught me so much about who I am and what I can do,” Anderson added. “I wouldn’t be anything close to what I am without FIRST Robotics and Team SCREAM.”
Anderson added that the past four years had been one heck of a ride and he was not ready for his time to be over with the program.
His classmate and teammate, Austin Wood agreed.
“This has been the best experience of my high school career without a doubt,” Wood said. “Because of my work as the videographer for Team SCREAM it has expande3d my interest in film and video.
“I feel I am centered about the direction for my future and the fact that my content and work for the team has been shown at so many different events is incredible,” he added. “I’m glad I could be a part of this experience.”
Wright also offered his gratitude for his teaching career at S-C and the time spent with his students.
“This is really a bittersweet day and the last hurrah for me,” Wright said early Saturday morning. “I’m really excited and proud that the last event I coach will be here in my hometown and at my school.
“I don’t think it will hit me until next week and after graduation that this is over,” he added. “I am very proud of all of these kids and their commitment to the team both this year and prior years and for the support of so many in the community.”
Team Scream captured second in the Missouri State Robotics Championship finishing second to Team Titanium from Lee’s Summit West High School who have won back-to-back state championships.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484