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Bogue Chitto robotics team aims for Houston

The Bogue Chitto Technocats are building a robot that can take them to Texas.

They’ve got the science and engineering figured out, but they need a little help with the math. That’s where the public comes in.

The nine members of the Bogue Chitto High School robotics team and their sponsors need to raise more than $5,000 in two weeks to get to the FIRST Tech Challenge world championship in Houston.

It’s a four-day event with the best of the best in robotics competing against each other. Between the Houston event and another held in Detroit, Michigan, more than 30,000 students from 1,200 teams in 62 countries will compete against each other for the championship.

The Bogue Chitto team won several regional events to garner a spot in the invitation-only competition. They’re the only public school in Mississippi to receive the honor. One private school and two homeschool teams from Mississippi were also invited, said Principal Scott Merrell. The group will be taking a school bus, rather than a chartered bus or airplane, to save money, but the cost of registration and hotel rooms for the team add up, he said.

The team is selling T-shirts and taking orders for chickens-on-a-stick as well as accepting donations. For shirts or food, message the team through their Facebook page, Bogue Chitto Technocats. There is also a “donate” button on that page that links straight to their gofundme page for donations.

The team is leaving April 17 for the competition, so they’re hard at work getting their robot, Phoenix, put together and working correctly. The object in the competition is to remotely-control the 120-pound robot to complete a series of tasks, such as picking up individual blocks almost as large as the robot and stacking them in another spot.

“We did have a completely different robot two weeks ago,” said junior Bruce Smith. “We completely dismantled it to improve it.”

In addition to Smith, the team includes freshmen Justin Kyzar and Hugh Greer, sophomores Jaylee Martin and Camryn White, junior Faith Dickerson and seniors Ian Jeansonne, Trequan Dorsey and Dakota West.

Dorsey signed up because instructor Reginald E. Wise was his favorite science teacher.

“I can now put stuff together, work it out and I can also program, which is what I used to like when I was a kid, he said.

Dickerson doesn’t have a big interest in pursuing an engineering career, but she’s enjoyed being part of the after-school robotics club.

“I’ve learned team work,” she said. “I’ve learned how to have people who will help me through everything that I need and people to ask if I have questions.”

Answering those questions is what the team does. Building a robot takes team work and problem solving, Dorsey said.

“We’re all working together as a team,” he said. “Everybody’s doing their part.”

The FIRST — For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology — competition pits teams on a head-to-head playing field with robots they have designed, built and programmed. But the robots are just part of the competition. Teams must also raise funds, design a team brand, hone teamwork skills and perform community outreach. Interview skills account for a third of their score, Wise said.

Wise is joined by Wendy Cawthorn as club sponsor.

“These kids compete against some of the best in Mississippi. I would put them up against anybody,” he said.

He and Cawthorn are anticipating a great finish.

“We’re going to do well,” he said. “They’re good people who will do whatever it takes, and that’s what you do as a team.”

Orders for chicken-on-a-stick will be taken through Monday for delivery April 12. They’re $9 each, or served with a drink for $10. See any Technocat team member or call the high school office at 601-734-2723 to place an order.