Robots Invading Carver Hawkeye Arena This Weekend

By Sarah McCarthy, Reporter

IOWA CITY, Iowa - The first-ever North Super Regional Robot Competition is happening at Carver Hawkeye Arena this weekend.

"It's like no other competition that you could think of," said Alex Stephens, a sophomore from Center Point Urbana High School, and a team member of the High Voltage robotics team.

Each year the competition has a theme and this year the theme is "Block Party". That means that every group has to engineer a robot that can pick up small yellow cubes and drop them into a basket.

"The competition is for middle and high school students," said Rebecca Whitaker, a FIRST Tech Challenge organizer. "Then each team has to run a match that's about two and a half minutes long."

Each team also gets a professional engineer mentor. David Lempia, who works at Rockwell Collins, is the mentor for High Voltage. He said the event is a way for kids to get some hands on experience.

"They've gone from having to be shown everything to pretty much doing it ll on their own," Lempia said.

And the kids are getting more than just basic engineering skills out of the event.

"You learn social skills from talking to judges and other teams," Stephens said. "And you get to work with mentors from huge engineering companies like Rockwell Collins. They tell you what it's like working in the real world."

And at the end of the weekend, about 20 teams will be chosen to move on to the FTC World Championships in St. Louis at the end of the month.

Only 80 groups nationwide will make it there and over 30 countries will be represented.

High Voltage is hoping to make the cut.

"I'm so nervous about it," Stephens said. "I hope that we qualify, but if we don't I'll be happy with where we're at."
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