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St. Helens robotics team returns from world championships

Students and team leaders said they're excited to apply newly learned skills to competition next year

PHOTO COURTESY OF NEIL FORD - Students from the St. Helens Robotics and Engineering Club pose for a group photo under the St. Louis Gateway Arch. The team traveled to Missouri last week to compete in the FIRST Robotics World Championships.The St. Helens High School Robotics and Engineering Club earned the opportunity to compete against 600 robotics teams during the FIRST Robotics World Championships held in St. Louis, April 27-30.

Teams at the competition were divided into eight divisions of 75 teams each during the first round of competition.

Although the team did not advance out of its division during the first rounds, Neil Ford, a chemistry teacher at the high school and the club’s advisor, said team members learned ways to improve for next year’s competition season.

Many of the top teams who compete in the FIRST Robotics championships have been building their robotics programs for close to 20 years. The St. Helens club, known by its acronym “SHREC,” has been a competitor with FIRST for two years.

To pay for the trip, the team relied on sponsorship, donations and student- led fundraisers.

“SHREC would like to thank all of the supporters who made it possible to compete in St. Louis,” Ford stated via email. “Supporters include: Lower Columbia Engineering, Christensen Electric, WA First Robotics, Preheim Computers, Rotary Club of Columbia County, KOHI Radio, Building Material Specialties, ACE Hardware, and numerous personal donors. We could not have done this without the support of the community.”

Students on the team said they enjoyed spending time with one another on the trip as well as having the opportunity to compete.

“We learned a lot and brought back lots of ideas and energy to put towards future years,” Ford added. “SHREC is excited to compete next year and make it back to the World Championships.”