ABOVE: The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development’s 40-foot TN Driving Innovation Lab, equipped with this Baxter industrial robot, 3D printers, drones, virtual reality, a laser cutter and etcher, and other STEM-related technology was on hand at Brentwood Academy during the VEX Robotics State Championship. // TENNESSEE ECD PHOTO
The Franklin Road Academy RoboPanthers robotics team were crowned State Champions on Saturday afternoon at the VEX Robotics State Championship hosted by Brentwood Academy.
Team W, consisting of Campbell Jeffrey, Thomas Hohnholt, Addy Carroll, and Summer Vo, was the last team standing out of 42 teams from across the state vying
for one of the coveted 11 upper school team spots to advance to the World Championship.
In total, more than 100 elementary, middle, and high school teams from all points in the state, including more than 1,000 students had qualified to compete in the tournament presented by the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation.
Each team attending the tournament qualified after designing, programming, and building robots, and then competing throughout the year at regional competitions.
This is the third year an FRA team has advanced to the World Championship, its first time as a State Champion. The RoboPanthers will compete in the World Championships April 24 – 27 in Louisville, Kentucky.
FRA had four teams in the State Championship tournament. In addition to Team W’s title run, Team U, which includes Garrison Harold, Christopher May, Olivia Maki, and Georgia Austin, and Team X, consisting of Caleb Huddleston, William Roberts, and Alexandra Halas, partnered and made it to the quarterfinal round. And, for the first time ever, a middle school team represented FRA in a state match. Team Y, which includes Langston Harold, Ryan Holman, and RJ Harding, were tournament finalists and won the Sportsmanship Award.
“This is a really great moment for our program and our school,” James Weeks, head robotics coach, said in a press release announcing the championship. “This state title showcases the incredible amount of growth and commitment our kids have put in the last several years in our robotics program. It also demonstrates the high value of establishing a student-led campus-wide culture of innovation.”
FRA has a state-of-the-art Innovation Lab, which opened in 2017 with the help of the Scarlett Family Foundation.
“Because we have an area dedicated to robotics, we now have the space and equipment to really hone those skills and compete with other top teams in the world,” Weeks said.
The World Championship brings the best teams from 50 countries around the world together to compete for the title of world champion.
In terms of preparing for the state and world championships, coach Kelly Huddleston said team members are constantly wanting to be in the Innovation Lab working to get better.
“Not a day goes by where someone isn’t tweaking and testing something new,” Huddleston said.
As for what makes the coaches most proud of the robotics team, Huddleston said, “What we love most is how these students work so well together and love and support one another. We are also proud of the integrity with which our team competes.”