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Georgia high school robotics team could soon be world champs

For many team members, this was their last chance to make it to the world championship.

MARIETTA, Ga. — Earlier this year, Wheeler High School’s non-profit robotics team, CircuitRunners Team 1002, competed in the First Tech Challenge (FTC) Georgia State Championship where they received the highest award known as the Inspire State Award. 

This win qualified them to compete in the First World Championship, an achievement that has not been reached since 2012, and with the competition right around the corner, the CircuitRunners are fundraising to get their entire team to be able to travel to the event. 

August Longhurst is a senior at Wheeler High School and Team Lead for the CircuitRunners FTC Team 1002, and he said that getting to this point has been a goal of the team for well over a year now. 

“Last year we had basically a meeting to go over what we could do better this season and try to set goals, and we wrote down one statement which has been driving the whole team for this entire semester, which was ‘Houston or Bust.’”

For many team members, this was their last chance to make it to the world championship, and this phrase kept them pushing through. However, the stakes were high and the pressure was on to finally build a robot that would take them all the way. 

“This is something we've all been working towards for a very long time. We worked really hard for this and there was sort of a feeling like if we didn't win it here, this is our last chance.” senior Nelitha Kulasiri said.

Since the start of their competition season back in September, Team 1002 has built at least four different robots. Although they were not perfect, each one held a piece of the puzzle they needed to finally get to the robot that won them a state championship, Cheese Grater.

Now, Cheese Grater will be accompanying the team to the international competition that takes place this week in Houston Texas, and although the team gears up to leave for the competition soon, they will still be accepting donations through their online fundraiser to ensure that every member of the CircuitRunners can compete.

“A big point of CircuitRunners is to make robotics accessible to all people, and especially since in our area, some people don't necessarily have the means to go with us to the World's Competition. We want to be able to raise enough money to help everyone get going with us. So our GoFundMe, it essentially helps cover the costs for us going to worlds,” Longhurst said. 

The donations from their online fundraiser will help cover any expenses from the trip including plane tickets, food and hotel stay. They will also act as reimbursements to the families who do not have the financial means to cover all of the costs that come with traveling to the world competitions. 

The CircuitRunners, however, is not just a competition team. As a nonprofit organization that started in 2002, they also participate in numerous outreach events where they can share their passion for STEM with their community. 

Kulasiri outlined just a few of the club’s outreach initiatives outside of robotics.

“We've also mentored other First Tech Challenge teams like robots like these. Additionally, outside of robotics, we all work with special education students at our school, and we work them through different activities to do some simple STEM concepts,” he said.

For some members, this is their favorite part of the club and they see it as an experience where they can not only learn about STEM but also teach it to others and develop relationships within a community that shares the same creative and innovative mindset as them. Longhurst even encourages anyone interested in robotics to join a team near them. 

“Although it does seem like a robotics team thinks they can learn here goes way deeper. And if you're interested in robotics or STEM at all, I would highly encourage looking into joining one of these teams. There are plenty of community teams all across not only Georgia, but right across the world,” Longhurst said. 

To donate, you can find the CircuitRunners Robotics Team's online fundraiser here

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