Robotics team finishes top 3 percent worldwide

Luca Navarrete, Jesus Cruz, Kiana Miller, Madeline Archibeque, Julian Garcia, Ben Nelson (back) Miles Mariani and Jack Tuel represented Winters Robotics Club Team 39599A in the VEX Robotics World Championships in Dallas in April. (Courtesy photo)

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Team 39599A of the Winters Robotics Club recently returned from their trip to the 2023 VEX Robotics World Championship in Dallas, Texas. Although they didn’t win, this small-town team proved they’re more than worthy of battling it out with the best of the best on a global stage.

The team’s championship week began when it touched down in Dallas on Monday, April 24. Regardless of the butterflies in their stomachs, the team woke up bright and early the following day and stepped into the lion’s den of competition.

“We checked in Monday and our nerves definitely started up then. Tuesday was our skills challenge day and our robot would run autonomously, but we also had some troubles then which definitely rattled us a little. It was just a warm-up round for the real competition the next day,” said Kiana Miller, team member and Winters High School senior. “Wednesday was our first round of competition and qualifying matches. We won four matches and lost three that day. Then we came back on Thursday and lost all three qualifier matches, which didn’t help us, and we ended with a record of four wins and six losses. It was all right, though, we had a great time talking with teams from all over the world the rest of the time.”

Even though the team took 52nd place out of around 80 teams — which comprise the top 3 percent of robotics teams around the globe — the event was as much a competition as it was an opportunity to network, meet new people and make friends from around the globe. Along with WHS robotics teacher, Dianne Halsey’s challenge of meeting three teams outside of the US every day, the team theme of cowboys and dinosaurs made it easy to mingle with international students — especially as they rode around the venue on inflatable T-rexes.

“My favorite part of the whole experience was meeting all the people,” said Ben Nelson, team driver and WHS junior. “Even though not winning isn’t ideal, you do have a lot of fun and meeting all these new people and sharing this whole experience makes up for that. Everyone there has an interest in building robots, it’s what we all love to do. So, it’s just fun to nerd out on robots and it was like a universal language there.”

Although the robotics team took a loss on paper at the championships, it didn’t leave Dallas without a few wins. Besides expanding their social circles, another win included a few of the robotics team members being selected as student ambassadors.

“We had four students that were student ambassadors. What that is, is there’s an application they fill out and only the kids from the robotics honor society can fill it out. They write these essays and are chosen to be an ambassador at worlds. It’s a very high honor to be chosen as an ambassador,” explained Halsey. “Kiana Miller was one and also Miles Mariani, Jack Tuel and Julian Garcia. They all had a luncheon with industry CEO’s and government officials, gave them a VIP tour everywhere and talked to them. I got some feedback from one of the higher-ups in VEX and he said, ‘Hey, your ambassadors did a really good job!’”

The attending Warriors who went to Dallas include Team 39599A which includes Jesus Cruz, Madeline
Archibeque, Kianna Miller and Ben
Nelson. Along with them were teammates Miles Mariani, Jack Tuel, Julian Garcia and Luca Navarrete.

They ended their week by attending a major-league baseball game before heading back to Winters — and discussing plans for next year’s competition all the while.

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