The Wayne County 4-H robotics team is continuing its winning streak, heading to the state championship this weekend.
The high school Roto Raptors Team 3737 won its second district competition last weekend, qualifying for the state event at Campbell University, said Anne Finch, lead coach.
“We are currently 11th in the state out of 70 teams,” she said. “This is very exciting. We also received the Chairman’s Award, which is the most prestigious award available.
“Now we compete against other winners for the state Chairman’s Award.”
This marked the second time the local entrants won the Chairman’s Award, which honors a team that best represents a model for other teams to emulate and best embodies the purpose and goals of the program.
That event was held at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, Finch said.
“Thirty Wayne County high school students took the 2019 robot they had built, R(15) Strike Raptor, and competed against 35 other FRC (First Robotics Competition) teams from North Carolina,” she said. “This exciting and fast-paced game showcases robots which were built by high school students in under two months.
“Robots drive through ‘sandstorms,’ the view of the field is blocked for 15 seconds, (they) place hatches and shoot cargo onto a cargo ship or three-level rocket, all in the pursuit of the highest score.”
In just a short time, Team 3737 has grown in numbers as well as expertise. The team currently has 33 student members, the lead coach said.
“You may have seen the Raptors out in the community spreading STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and introducing FIRST LEGO League and FIRST LEGO League Junior into Wayne County’s schools and communities,” she said. “For the last three years they incorporated FLL Jr. into the curriculum at Meadow Lane Elementary and in the fall of 2018 began a 4-H FLL (FIRST LEGO League) Jr. into the curriculum at Carver Elementary.
“It’s exciting. We have just moved this year into new facilities — SPX Flow (near Cherry Hospital) provided us with a dedicated space for our tools and robots. It just allows the team to do a better job, and to succeed.”
4-H Robotics have also demonstrated their robots at area businesses and schools, events like the career fair and STEM Fair, science days, at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair and Wings Over Wayne. They have actively taught summer camps and used their curriculum to assist Boy Scouts in earning their robotics merit badge.
Wayne County has been particularly supportive, from county officials, sponsors and residents, Finch said.
This weekend’s event will also provide an opportunity for the local team to compete against the three other North Carolina 2019 Chairman’s Award winners for the right to compete for the Chairman’s Award at the world championship contest in Houston.
“We’ve been there twice before,” Finch pointed out, extending an invitation to the public to take advantage of the preliminary event on Saturday. “Join (us) and the top 32 high school robotics teams from across North Carolina to see who will advance to the FIRST Championship-Houston on April 17-20.
“The state championship event is free and open to the public. More details are available at http://www.firstnorthcarolina.org/.”