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Warrior robotics heading to nationals

Nine soccer games in a row would take the wind out of any seasoned team.

But the rookies of Nansemond River High School’s team finished strong at their regional tournament and are advancing to nationals.

With their soccer-playing robot, the Nansemond River High School’s robotics team won Rookie All-Star last weekend and will advance to the April 15 national tournament.

“We were all really excited,” said Camden Stevens, robotics team member. “Mrs. Rountree started crying when we won. We were just freaking out when they called our team. Two representatives went up there, and we were shaking for five minutes afterwards.”

It is the first year Nansemond River High School put together a team to compete in the worldwide FIRST Robotics Competition.

FIRST stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” Its robotics competition is in its 19th year and has 45,000 high school students participating worldwide.

The mission of the program is to “inspire young people to be science and technology leaders, by engaging them in mentor-based programs that build science, engineering and technology skills, that inspire innovation, and that foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication, and leadership,” according to the FIRST Web site.

With support from its mentor team, TALON 540, school administration and mentors from Boeing and Christopher Newport University, the students had only six weeks to design a soccer-playing robot, taking into account several variables, such as the layout of the field and the movement of the soccer ball.

While the team couldn’t afford all the bells and whistles they said they would have liked to, they were confident going into the tournament that their robot was a solid model.

“Our robot definitely performed really well,” Stevens said. “And Dylan drove every round and did very well.”

Leading up to the tournament, Dawn Rountree, the team’s advisor, said it had been amazing to watch the dedication, time and effort the students put forth. They worked 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and after their classes to get the job done.

“The kids come in early and stay late,” Rountree said. “They’re here and working. They always do what they can.”

Winning, however, wasn’t entirely based on their robot’s design. The teamwork that had to be developed amongst the students in such a short time was integral to their success.

“During those six weeks, we became best friends,” Stevens said. “We’re like a big family now. We’ve learned so much about robots and each other. It’s been a good experience.”