The Lakeview Academy highschool robotics team is advancing to the world championship of the FIRST Tech Challenge, an international robotics competition, the private school in Gainesville announced.
“We are incredibly proud of these students,” said John Simpson, Lakeview’s head of school. “The team has advanced to state competition six years, but this is the team’s first trip to the international competition. It’s a huge accomplishment for the students and Lakeview.”
Lakeview competed against 34 other teams from around the state, and only three other teams from Georgia qualified for the FIRST World Championship.
Lakeview will be among over 400 teams from around the world competing at the 32nd annual championship. The FIRST championship is the culmination of a youth robotics competition season and is an annual celebration of science, technology, engineering and math.
FIRST was founded in 1989 by inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen, who was disappointed in the number of students, particularly women and minorities, who pursued science and technology careers.
The six team members who will make the trip to Houston are Dylan Mulka, Henry Stewart, Scott Rivenbark, Adam Lauzon, Emilia Horton and Lara Martins de Oliveira.
The team is advancing after winning the Innovative Award and being the runner-up for the Inspire Award. The Innovate award recognizes teams that have an innovative and creative robot design, and the Inspire award recognizes teams that are outstanding in all categories of the FIRST Tech Challenge program.
“The Inspire award is the one we’re always after as a team,” said Mikhail Lovell, Lakeview’s robotics coach for the past eight years. “The Inspire award is more important than building the best robot on the field. It’s about being an outstanding team in all respects, from outreach about FIRST, to community service, to leading robot camps, to sharing our robots at the Christmas on Green Street parade and more.”
Earning a first place in the Innovate award was the result of a multi-month process of robotic design, prototyping, and revision, the school said.
“The key design piece that set us apart from the other teams this year was a central mechanism that allowed the robot to act similarly to a construction excavator and have a completely independent top half,” Lovell said.
Lovell says robotics attracts a particular type of student, but there’s a place for everyone on a robotics team.
“At some level we’re all nerds, but as a coach my goal is to appeal to as many kids as possible,” he said. “We have kids who only work on code and others who only work on social media and marketing.”
Lovell says a number of his students go on to earn engineering or technology degrees from Georgia Tech, University of Georgia and other universities.
“What’s unique about robotics is that it is one of the few activities that a student can get involved in that has a long-term goal that they have to work toward, he said.
A previous version of this article misstated the competition name and one of the award rankings.