Crowning Achievement

Published 6:22 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

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GREENSBORO – The ‘Royal Techticians’ of Conway Middle School have certainly earned their crowns.

The local robotics team participated in the First Lego League Challenge state championship which was held January 13 on the campus of NC A&T State University in Greensboro. They represented Northampton County well, finishing in the top ten out of 60 teams that took part in the championship event.

“This steadfast and determined team worked incredibly hard through a lengthy season, overcoming many challenges to experience success time and time again. It was not always easy, but the team learned so much in the process,” said coach Grace Smith, who also serves as Northampton County Schools’ AIG Coordinator.

The First Lego League Challenge is open for students in grades 4-8 to encourage them to get more hands-on STEM experience along with developing other skills that would be useful in the future.

Students who took part learn how to build and code a small robot, which is given a set of “missions” to complete during a certain amount of time. The Innovation Project is another aspect of the competition, where the students are given a real-world challenge to solve.

This year’s theme was “Masterpiece,” which centered on art.

Teams are also judged on their “Core Values,” which include fun, teamwork, innovation, impact, discovery, and inclusion. The judges interview the teams and watch to see how those values are reflected in the students as they interact with each other as well as other teams.

The eight-member ‘Royal Techticians’ team began their journey to the state championship back in November as one of 500 teams across the state competing in regional qualifiers. In December, they performed well enough during the semifinals in Raleigh to advance to the state championship competition, a first for the robotics team from Conway Middle School.

“You could certainly feel that this state championship event was different than prior competitions when first walking into the massive well-organized venue,” Smith said of their trip to Greensboro. “The organizers at NC A&T went the extra mile to make sure these students felt celebrated and accomplished.”

The championship event not only included the competition but other fun activities for the students to participate in throughout the day, such as a team parade, dance party, face painting, a photo booth, and more. Smith said it was an amazing experience for the students to be able to have fun, meet people, and be exposed to ideas which will make an impact on their lives for years to come.

“As a coach, I hope this team learned they can do anything they set their minds to if they stay committed and learn to work as a team. This team is phenomenal, and I couldn’t be prouder of their amazing accomplishments,” she emphasized.

Northampton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rosa Atkins said Conway Middle School’s team showcased their prowess by their outstanding performance throughout the competition season.

“In a field of 500 teams statewide, the Royal Techticians not only stood out but also advanced to the state, securing a top 12 percent ranking,” she said.

“The achievements of our students fill us with immense pride and highlight their dedication and skill in the world of robotics. This program showcases the vision and direction of Northampton County Schools,” Dr. Atkins concluded.

The members of the Royal Techticians team include Zach Behrends, Rufus Flythe, Bailey Bostic, Matthew Jones, Darren Benton-Manley, Jacob Simmons, Zakira Rahim, and Saniya Futrell.

“The most important thing I learned as a Royal Techtician is that teamwork and persistence can take you a long way,” said Jones, an eighth-grader.

Simmons, a seventh-grader, said, “The state [competition] was pretty different from the others because a lot of the people were more serious at state compared to qualifying and semi-finals.”

He added that he enjoyed the robotics part of the event the most because it involved technical work. And he also learned the importance of teamwork “because no matter how good you are, you’re no good without your team.”

Fellow seventh-grader Benton-Manley said the championship event was very organized and a great experience because of the welcoming atmosphere of the A&T community.

“My favorite part of the event was having the opportunity to interact with others,” he continued, “from our closed session with the judges to exchanging buttons and souvenirs with other teams.”

Benton-Manley also said the most important thing he learned from the experience was how to approach problems and obstacles as a team.

“Whenever we ran into an issue, we always sat down together and mapped everything out. We used our skills to solve problems, make adjustments, and compromise to include everyone’s ideas,” he explained.

Coach Smith said the team plans to use the off-season to teach others how to build and code robots and to refine their own skills. Their success has sparked the interest of other students who want to dive into the world of robotics too.