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There are a lot of elements to the FTC competition but it is Indiana Jones-themed, and the robots do different tasks including stacking cubed boxes to collect points, collecting a “golden relic” and an autonomous portion that consists of the robot knocking opponents’ “jewels” off a platform.

The scale itself is also pretty big; it is like a giant teeter totter, and one of the objectives this year for a First Robotics Competition team – often referred to as FRC – is for the robots to stack as many cubes on their team’s side of scale and tip it downward to earn points.

It has been several years since the FRC Team 342: the Burning Magentos, comprised of Fort Dorchester High and homeschooled students, have made their way to a Worlds event but the team was a regionals finalist as well as a “Wildcard” winner during the Rocket City Regionals event in Huntsville, Alabama, in March and earned a spot in Houston.

The team is partnered with Bosch and the students have five sub-teams: a mechanical engineering team, programming team, a safety team, an electrical engineering team and a media team. The students also work under the support of many mentors including Hank Bennett, Aimee Tefft, Alison Loudermilk, Mike White and George and Luis Hans.

Danielle Paulk, an 11th-grader at Fort Dorchester High and member of the mechanical team, said robotics is a wonderful way to learn about STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – and make new friends. She said the team always meets new people at competitions and likes to follow up with the friends they make.

Team captain Eddie Negron said he has a feeling the team is going to do pretty well in Houston. Negron is graduating and wants to be a software engineer. He said the team has about 20 new freshmen and he thinks being on the team will be a good learning experience for them in the coming years.

Last year was a big one for FRC Team 3489 – “Category 5.” After placing second in the Smoky Mountain Regional in Knoxville, Tennessee, the team went on to earn a Wildcard to attend the 2017 FIRST World Championship in Houston and finish eighth out of 67 teams.

Category 5’s most recent trip to the Smoky Mountain Regional landed the team with the Excellence in Engineering Award for FEMA’s unique ability to “pick up” three robots (FEMA can lift up to 500 pounds) and the team scored a wildcard for Worlds.

“I’ve been teaching people how to do that, which is really awesome because you get to teach someone a practical skill, just like the way I was taught. I really like that. I’m going to miss it,” he said. “I love the competition and the camaraderie that comes with it. Hopefully I can find that I can find that again being an engineer going to college.”

Head coach Peter Linke said it is exciting to go to Worlds a second time in a row. He said this year the team is 50 percent comprised of freshmen and it took a while to get everybody up to speed but said they really stepped up to the plate in Knoxville.

“I’m very pleased,” he said, adding, “I think they have a very, very good chance to make the impossible happen, to go to the final playoffs. We have a very solid robot, the programming team worked very hard last week to make the necessary improvements to be competitive at nationals…they do a good job.”