SWHS robotics team takes second

Published 11:19 pm Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Jeremy D. Smith/The Times -- The Sweet Water robotics team claimed second place out of 31 schools in the Overall Robotics category Saturday in Mobile.

SWEET WATER – Bullbot turned out to be even better than expected for the second-year team. The robot helped the Sweet Water robotics team take second place at the Jubilee BEST Robotics Competition in Mobile over the weekend.

“That’s going to qualify us to go to the Southern United States competition in Auburn,” Sweet Water principal Stan Stokley said. “It has been a real exciting program for our kids.”

A year ago, Sweet Water took seventh place out of 26 schools, earning the title of Rookie Team of the Year. This go-round, the young team knew the course and the challenges much better.

“Last year’s robot was very competitive,” robotics team sponsor Kevin Byrd said. “The problem was we did not know what to expect. This year we thought our robot was pretty competitive, but we had gotten to practice a lot more beforehand and knew better what to expect.”

That foreknowledge helped the Sweet Water team to take second out of 31 teams competing in Overall Robotics and earn its way to the next level.

“Were making some improvements and we want to compete there also,” Byrd said.

“We’re really excited because Jubilee BEST usually produces the national champion and if we can hang with everybody there, we think we can do well at Auburn too.”

That competition – dubbed South’s BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) Regional Robotics Competition ó will take place at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn Nov. 18 through 20 and will feature the Top 60 teams from Birmingham, Dothan, Decatur, Auburn, Hanceville, Mobile, New Britain, Conn., Marietta, Ga., Starkville, Miss., Philadelphia, Pa. and Grove City, Pa.

“If you look at the schools that compete in these things – very large private schools, very large public schools – it is amazing to think that we finished second out of 31 schools,” Stokley said.

But most amazing for Stokley has been the impact he has seen the program make on the more two dozen students involved.

“We had a kid that was not involved in anything, but he got on the robotics team and was one of our key guys and just really flourished,” Stokley said of a member on the inaugural Bulldog team.

Stokley and Byrd are hopeful the school can build upon and continue the success the program has seen in its early stages.

First, they must procure sponsorship and support to fund the trip to Auburn. Travel costs will run the school approximately $700.