New Overhills robotics team wins state Rookie All-Star Award

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A new robotics team at Overhills Hills School took top honors in its first year, garnering the Rookie All-Star Award — the highest award a rookie team can earn — after finishing in 28th place among the state’s 70 robotics teams.

The Overhills Jag-Wires were named the N.C. State Championship Rookie All-Star at the finals on March 31 at Campbell University.

“By receiving this award, The Overhills Jag-Wires qualified to be one of 15 teams to represent North Carolina at the FIRST Robotics Competition World Championships in Houston, Texas, April 17-20,” said Kevin Williams, OHS automotive teacher and Jag-Wires coach. “We were also the only rookie team that qualified from North Carolina... The Overhills Jag-Wires did an amazing job at Worlds!”

The team was the highest ranked rookie team, finishing in 20th place out of the 68 teams competing in its division.

“We lost one match by one point giving us a record of 4-1-0,” Williams said. “On the second day, we had three losses which dropped us to 32 in our division, but we still had a winning record of 6-4-0. Members of FIRST North Carolina Robotics have continued to compliment our students on how well they performed this year on-and-off the field. Everywhere we traveled, our students were always complimented on their behavior, kindness and respect.”

Williams coaches the 23 students, who make up The Overhills Jag-Wires, with fellow OHS teachers Stephanie Creech and Patricia Shaffer.

“The magnitude of World Championships as an event is indescribable,” Williams said. “We faced off against veteran and rookie robotics teams from all across our country and from around the world. This event was even showcased on the national television show ‘Good Morning America’ as they did a live shoot from Houston. We are still wrapping our minds around the fact that our underdog rookie robotics team from Spring Lake, North Carolina, made it to the World Championships and proudly represented Harnett County Schools.”

Williams says he’s proud of what their young team accomplished in its first year.

“When they were told they should not do something because it was too difficult or complex for rookies to try, they tried anyways and were often successful,” he said. “Our students did not know how to write a business plan, make a website or use power tools in the beginning, but over the course of eight months, they learned!”

But even after all of their awards and accomplishments, Williams says, he still gets asked, “FIRST Robotics? What’s that?”

“The story of The Overhills Jag-Wires is not just about some high school students that built a robot that made it to Houston,” he said.” The purpose of the FIRST Robotics Competition is to introduce students to STEM opportunities.”

Several of their students are considering career paths in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics and there is even a push in the legislature to find funding for robotics competitions in public schools and to recognize it as a sport for high school students, he said.

The Overhills Jag-Wires were also honored for safety and entrepreneurship efforts in competitions.

Overhills seniors, Cheyenne Goldwire, Jasmine Hill, Autumn Lahr, Rayna Matlock and Gabriella Villa, make up the team along with juniors, Laila Al-lahabi, Maria Aysa, Marcus Canales, Sophia Dietz, Isaiah Ferguson, Jessie Harrington, Jelina Miller and Sarajah Moody; sophomores, Brielle Barnes, Grace Dossou, Jada Gunderson, Chelsie Helms and Royce South; and freshmen, Cameron Bryson, Jalin Hubbard, Tyler Randolph, Christina Shaffer and Jonathan Um.

Williams was Harnett County’s CTE Teacher of the Year in 2017.

More about FIRST Robotics

What is the FIRST Robotics Competition?

The FIRST Robotics Competition for Grades 9-12 (ages 14 to 18) is an annual competition that helps young people discover the rewards and excitement of education and careers in science, engineering and technology. The program challenges high-school-aged students – working with professional mentors – to design and build a robot, and compete in high-intensity events that reward the effectiveness of each robot, the power of team strategy and collaboration and the determination of students. In 1992, the initial FIRST Robotics Competition took place with 28 teams in a high school gym in New Hampshire. In 2019, the largest-ever season included 3,790 teams from more than 30 countries competing in 100 district events, 11 district championships and 62 regional events, as well as FIRST Championship Houston that was held at the George R. Brown Convention Center April 17-20, and FIRST Championship Detroit which was held at the Cobo Center April 24-27.

How the game was played

Each year’s kickoff event unveils a new game for robotics teams. This year’s challenge, “Destination: Deep Space,” presented by Boeing, gave the students 2 minutes and 30 seconds to “gather as many cargo pods as possible and prepare their spaceships for departure before the next sandstorm arrives” on Planet Primus. Two competing alliances had to combat “unpredictable terrain and weather patterns, making remote robot operation essential to their mission on the planet,” according to FIRST Robotics.

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