Upward Bound robotics team reaches state


     Earlier this month, ABAC’s Upward Bound robotics team headed to state to compete in FIRST’s Robotics annual competitions. This competition was the team’s first time engaging in robotics.

     Since January, the team of 16 students from nine surrounding high schools worked in a new atmosphere to build their first robot. Students worked to improve their mechanical, programming and engineering skills.

     Throughout the competitions, the team gained crucial insight and strategic goals for improving themselves and their robot.

     In order to make it to state, teams had to win in two matches. They chose Columbus, after Albany to get exposure to “top dog” teams that would likely make it to state, north of Atlanta.

     “It was inspiring seeing veteran teams because even though we were a smaller team we can get bigger and better next year. We are small, but we can get it done,” said Cierra Boney, a sophomore from Turner county who worked with the robot’s mechanics.

     Early last March, ABAC’s Upward Bound robotics team headed to their first competition in Albany winning first place in the district, the Highest Rookie Seed and the Rookie Inspiration award for FIRST Robotics annual competitions. After winning both competitions in Albany and Columbus, the team headed for state.

     “Our main goal as a team that had never built a robot was to build a moving robot, but we had no idea that our effort would get us to state. We were shocked more than anything,” said Felicity Graham, a sophomore from Tift County.

    Their robot extended six feet tall, weighed 150 pounds and had over 500 pieces. The team received grants and equipment for their robot from Lowes and NASA. At the competition, rookie teams worked with veteran teams in a friendly environment where others were willing to help the team with advice and tools.

     Edwin Zapote, a senior from Turner county says that competing was very tough, but it had to get done. There were some problems with the bumper, but other teams stepped up to help.

     He plans to study mechanical pre-engineering at ABAC before transferring to Georgia Tech with his associates. Though he will graduate this semester, he will continue mentoring new team members.

     The team did not succeed at state. Nevertheless, they ranked 20 out of 85 in the state prior to the competition. The team went up against veteran teams with plenty of sponsors.

     “My students have been working on robotics only since January. I am extremely impressed and proud of the level of competition they achieved,” said Ben Vieth, UB’s Associate Director and adviser.

     The work does not stop, during the summer the team will be mentoring new UB students who are interested in robotics. Many of the students will take leadership roles and others will work to seek sponsors.

     “We are all family after building our skills and teamwork. We know we will do better next year,” said Zenae Martin, a freshman from Irwin County.

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