FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — For the first time in county history, a Forsyth high school has won the state robotics championship and is heading for the world finals.
Forsyth Central High School’s First Robotics Competition team, Team OTTO 1746, competed in the state finals April 8 and is moving on to the world finals April 19-22 in Houston.
Lead mentor Kellen Hill said there are 75 teams in Georgia who compete in a series of qualifying events, narrowing the teams down to 45. From there, the teams join forces and divide into alliances composed of three groups. Forsyth Central was on the winning alliance and is one of three teams in the state as winners.
“There are qualification rankings and then from there are alliance matches,” Hill said. “The top eight teams get to pick their own alliances. The No. 1 seed picked us as the first over-all pick. It’s then like March Madness where you work your way down a bracket.”
Team OTTO was founded in 2006, but was originally known as the Forsyth Alliance and drew students from most county schools. Since then, the schools have split into separate teams including at North Forsyth High School and South Forsyth High School. Lambert High School used to have a team, Hill said, but they’ve gone in and out.
“What was particularly cool was we wound up playing against South Forsyth High School in the final matches,” Hill said. “Not only was it the first time a Forsyth County team was in the finals of state championship, but it was also the first time a Forsyth County team won.”
The competition was founded in 1992 and is an engineering challenge for students. Annually at the beginning of January, a new game is released. Teams receive the same parts and then have six weeks to design a robot to play that game.
“The robots are 120-pounds, sometimes 2 or 10-feet-tall,” Hill said. “The games are usually themed or sports-oriented. This year’s theme was steampunk. Students are building up pressure and scoring gears to get your air shift to take off.”
The students sit down with their mentors, like Hill, to discuss how to design the robot and how they want to play the game. Students then build and design parts and put the robot into a sealed bag at the end of the six weeks so they can’t continue to work on it. Robots are put to the test at various competitions to earn qualification points and to see if their entry will be worthy of a top 45 team, which then will advance to state championships.
“Everybody was jumping up and down when we found out we won,” Hill said. “We have grown as a team year after year. This is my fifth year with the team, and it’s been neat to see us grow and build on a year-to-year basis. To see it culminate as state champions is pretty cool to see. The students were thrilled with the results.”
The founder of the competition identified the need for pushing science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, fields to get people excited about it, Hill said. He eventually thought the best way to do it is to turn STEM fields into a sport.
“Similar to sports, you have to practice for your position on the team,” Hill said. “But in this case students are learning programming skills while others are designing with industry software. It’s tricking students into learning important technical and life skills. Aside from learning the industry skills, they’re getting a lot of what the sports teams are getting out of it, from working in a team environment to having a tight timeline. There is a huge importance for this kind of program as it’s developing the students in a lot of different ways.”
Visit team1746.com to keep up with the team.