‘Royal Techticians’ headed to robotics state championship

Published 5:22 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

CONWAY – The best robotics teams in North Carolina will compete at the First Lego League Challenge state championship on Saturday, Jan. 13.

Students from Conway Middle School will be among those teams this year, a testament to their successful season in the league throughout the past few months.

The event will be held on the campus of NC A&T State University in Greensboro.

Northampton County Schools’ AIG Coordinator Grace Smith, who also coaches the ‘Royal Techticians’ team from Conway Middle, said this is the first time they have qualified to reach all the way to the state championship. The school has provided students with the opportunity to compete in the robotics competition for the past five years.

The competition includes multiple components that the students are judged on. First, they build and code a robot. During the competition, that robot is given a set of “missions” to complete during a certain amount of time. The work helps students gain hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) experience.

The second part of the competition is an Innovation Project, where the students are given a real-world challenge to solve. This year’s theme was “Masterpiece,” which centered on art.

“They actually had to innovate new ways to create and communicate art across the globe,” Smith explained.

She said the team had to use a lot of critical thinking skills as they researched their Innovation Project ideas. During the semifinals, Conway’s team received an “Exceeds Expectations” score for that component of the competition.

Lastly, each team is also judged by their Core Values: fun, teamwork, innovation, impact, discovery, and inclusion. The judges look at how the students express those values during the competition, in the way they interact with teammates and complete the challenges.

“A foundation for teamwork is what they’re trying to do,” Smith said. “It’s a friendly competition, and they’re looking to help one another.”

The competition is open to students from fourth to eighth grade, though Smith said they don’t have any fourth-graders on the team this year. The students cover a range of ages and a variety of different personalities, but Smith said they’re often helping each other out and utilizing teamwork on their projects.

“They learn a lot of real-world problem solving through their experiences,” she added.

The Conway Middle School team started out back in November with the regional competition in Winterville. At that event, they received second place in Robot Design and the second highest score for Robot Performance. Smith also received the Coach/Mentor Award during that competition. The “Techticians” were one of six teams to advance to the semifinals.

At the semifinals held in Raleigh in December, the team received the Judges Award for their Innovation Project and Robot Design, and they performed well enough to advance to this weekend’s state championship. Their Robot Performance score – 375 – was the highest score ever achieved by a Northampton County Schools team.

Smith and the team’s other coach, Syvillia Futrell, both said it has been rewarding just to see the students grow and thrive while participating in the program.

“It is truly gratifying to see the dedication, hard work, and perseverance it has taken our scholars to make it to the state robotics competition,” Futrell stated. “I am filled with a profound sense of satisfaction and joy. Seeing our students excel in such a competitive arena as robotics is a true testament to their capabilities and the positive impact of the robotics program.”

“Coaching this team has been incredibly rewarding,” Smith said. “They have shown such dedication and determination, as well as great progress in honing their teamwork skills.

“Our robotics program has provided a great opportunity for students to grow and excel, fostering skills that go beyond technical knowledge. It is wonderful to see this program having such a positive impact on our students,” she concluded.