Education

Two South County robotics teams need help to take on world championship

Robot built by Nipomo students plays a giant game of jacks

The Nipomo High School robotics team competed at the California VEX Robotics Competition on March 4, 2017, in Bakersfield. Nipomo students are wearing cardinal shirts, and their robot, labeled "563," is in the foreground of the video.
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The Nipomo High School robotics team competed at the California VEX Robotics Competition on March 4, 2017, in Bakersfield. Nipomo students are wearing cardinal shirts, and their robot, labeled "563," is in the foreground of the video.

Having a winning robotics team isn’t cheap.

At Nipomo High School, the robotics club budgets between $25,000 and $30,000 a year in costs, and now they need even more.

Two teams of NHS students and their robots have qualified for and hope to attend the annual VEX Worlds Robotics Competition, or “Worlds” for short, on April 19 — the highest level of competition for elementary through high school robotics teams around the world.

But paying for airfare and lodging in Louisville, Kentucky, where the competition is held, is costly: Team adviser Greg Gracia said they need to raise about $5,000 to pay for the eight students and two chaperones expected to attend. Specific materials costs for the two robots and their maintenance are already covered under the group’s annual budget.

One of the teams also qualified for and would like attend the CREATE Foundation National Open Championships in Iowa before heading to Worlds.

“It’s expensive,” Gracia said. “But it feels pretty good to qualify.”

The NHS teams aren’t the only student groups in the Lucia Mar Unified School District hoping to attend the Worlds championship: Students from Paulding Middle School in Arroyo Grande will also attend for the first time this year.

Gary Heckman, adviser for the Paulding Middle School team, said his team is attempting to raise $6,000 to $8,000 to send four students, their parents and himself to the competition. So far, they have reached out to the local Optimist Club and scheduled a fundraiser at Panda Express in Arroyo Grande for March 31. They also have a GoFundMe page to accept donations from the public.

It’s a great opportunity for the kids to go mix with kids from around the world.

Greg Gracia, Nipomo High School Robotics Team adviser

“They were on the edge,” Heckman said of the students who qualified, noting they won the design award for their robot and qualified for impressing the judges with their knowledge of its design.

The qualification caps a good year for the high school team as well: At the most recent state-level competition March 4, two of the team’s three robots made it to the semifinal rounds. One robot also received the Excellence Award, the highest honor at the competition.

Gracia said the competitions — especially at the world level — are an important tool in helping students develop their skills: it acts as a thinking tank for new ideas, tests their existing technological abilities and forges valuable connections between students from different walks of life.

“It’s a great opportunity for the kids to go mix with kids from around the world,” he said. “It makes their world a much bigger place.”

Kaytlyn Leslie: 805-781-7928, @kaytyleslie

How to donate

▪  Send a check to Nipomo High School at 525 N. Thompson Ave., Nipomo. The check should be addressed to Nipomo High School ASB/Robotics.

▪  Send a check to Paulding Middle School at 600 Crown Hill St., Arroyo Grande. The check should be addressed to Paulding Middle School - Robotics. Donations can also be made through GoFundMe at www.gofundme.com/paulding-vex-robotics-championship.

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