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Carlsbad High School junior Sam Carter makes some tweaks to a robot on April 5. Carter and the robotics team is the first-ever from CHS to qualify for the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics world championship April 17-20 in Houston. Photo by Steve Puterski
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Carlsbad High robotics team heading to FIRST Tech Challenge

CARLSBAD — Robotics is quickly becoming a staple throughout the Carlsbad Unified School District, from introductory elementary school curriculums to robust after-school high school programs.

The Carlsbad High School Buffalo Wings 5105’s efforts paid off as it became the first team in school history to qualify for the world FIRST Tech Challenge world championships from April 17 to April 20 in Houston.

Team captain Sam Carter, a junior, said the squad was selected as a wild card about one month ago, leaving little time to perfect the engineering and coding for their robot.

Carter said the team was proud to be the first from Carlsbad High to qualify, noting it has taken about 10 years for the program to reach this point.

“We just want to try our best and fun,” Carter said. “This is a big deal for the program. Going to worlds means we’re a world-class team. It really increases our chances to go again.”

From left are Carlsbad High School robotics team members Camilla Potz, Dora Olgvin, Nick Loughrin and Sam Carter work on their robot in Carter’s home on April 5. The team is the first-ever from CHS to qualify for the FIRST Tech Challenge robotics world championship April 17-20 in Houston. Photo by Steve Puterski

The season started in September and focuses on two components: first, the robot; second, a detailed business plan. The plan details the team’s every move from how its robot has evolved to fundraiser and sponsorships.

The team also spent this past week working on raising about $5,000 to cover the expenses to Houston. In total, it costs between $14,000 to $17,000 to attend.

And while their classmates were off for Spring Break last week, the dedicated team members crowded Carter’s house putting in 14-hour days.

The team consists of 10 students, and along with Carter, including Sebastian Arteaga, Adam Gordon, Katelyn Lewis, Nick Loughrin, Aiko Lozar, Dora Olgvin, Kaylyne Pham, Camilla Potz and Sabrina Sanchez.

“It’s a big deal for the sustainability for our team,” said Lewis, who was part of the Valley Girls Inc. team, which qualified for the FIRST Lego League world championships last year. “It’s just really good from the standpoint of where we want to continue our team.”

And this past week, the team gathered again for hours each day to practice driving the robot and adding any updates to its already 100-plus page business plan.

“We need to document everything,” Carter said. “Our outreach to the community, how we built it, what design choices we made and why our team is different from other teams. Our notebook is where we need to make ourselves different. Most of the awards are based off of how well you displayed yourself in the notebook.”

This year’s theme is space, so the Carlsbad High team built two devices, one a “moon lander,” which holds the pieces of “gold” and “silver;” and the other is the robot to pick up those pieces from designated areas on the course.

While a number of awards are given, perhaps the biggest is the Inspiration Award, Carter said. Although members of the team said they are not expecting to win the tech component, they are determined to put up a fight for the prestigious award, which relies heavily on the business plan.

“It documents a lot of our thought process,” Potz said.

The Carlsbad High team joins several other Carlsbad schools which have qualified, most recently last year when Sage Creek High School made the cut and the Valley Girls Inc., of Valley Middle School, qualified for the FIRST Lego League world championship.

Legos are used for elementary and middle school programs.

FIRST Robotics has exploded in popularity over the past several years culminating with a national competition in April.

The organization prioritizes STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and project-based learning to get more students involved with science and math, while also developing pathways for a career in those fields.