Forsyth Central High School robotics students will soon travel to Houston, Texas, to compete for a world championship after recently winning the state tournament in Athens, Georgia.
The state championship was held in early April, with about three-quarters of Central’s 28-person team, Team OTTO, attending the tournament after qualifying in two district competitions in March.
“Only the top teams make it to states,” said Jonathan Lillie, Central’s coach, “and it’s based on an accumulation of points from the two district competitions. At each competition, there are 10-12 qualification matches and each one you win, you get points.
“In the elimination rounds, points are increased and at the end, awards are given out and for every award, you get points. All those accumulate over the district competitions and once every team has done their two district events, the points are tallied and only a certain number go to states.”
At state, Team OTTO received the tournament’s high score of 454 points and beat out South Forsyth High School.
Lillie said winning the state event was not Central’s top priority.
“The day before the [state] competition, we made major changes to our robot,” he said. “Usually, teams don’t want to do that, but that’s not what we chose to do because we’d done so well in districts that we figured we’d qualify for worlds [because of our points]. We wanted our robot to be ready for worlds. By the last three matches, we had really worked out all the gremlins and were really doing everything we wanted to do at that point.
Central will now compete with 1,300 other teams from more than 39 countries on April 19-22.
“Robotics is amazing because it is so many different domains of engineering wrapped into one,” Lillie said. “It’s mechanical, electrical, programming, architectural and even industrial in a way — you want to optimize your creation and make it perform efficiently. It gives students a real-world application, and they get to see why what they’re learning in school is so important.
“If we could have a robotics class, it would be a great addition. That’s kind of what [this team] is — an activity that keeps education relevant and exciting for students.”