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Kokomo High School's robotics team qualified for world championships

Mar. 22—After 68 qualification matches and five rounds of elimination matches, Kokomo High School's TechnoKats Robotics Team secured its first tournament win since 2016.

Now ranked second in the state among For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology teams, Kokomo's win means they're moving on to compete at the Indiana State Championship, as well as the World Championships. 32 countries competed in FIRST's 2022-23 season.

At the start of last weekend's competition, teams were randomly assigned to three-team alliances. The TechnoKats had to go up against the state's top team several times before being assigned to alliances they were comfortable with.

Kelton Serra, a junior on the team, said the team's ranking fell lower than it should have.

Going into the finals, when teams are finally able to pick their alliances, the top ranked team, Hatch Batch from George Washington High School, went straight to the TechnoKats.

"They saw our potential and knew that we were better than what we were ranked," Serra said.

Although the TechnoKats knew they were a solid team, a few of its members said they hadn't anticipated winning the Columbus District Event.

"Even though it was surprising, I feel like a major part of why we did good was just the team's energy," said Jaxon Brown, a junior on the team. He later added, "A few pivotal moments changed the entire energy."

Serra attributed some of the team's success to its ability to remain calm.

"Even though we weren't where we wanted by the end of the first day, we knew we could get there and stay consistent," Serra said.

Trevor Goad, a senior on the team, said they also owed their success to the TechnoKats' scouting and strategizing teams.

Joy Dewing, TechnoKats head coach and a teacher at Kokomo High School, said their success started in January, when the team received the competition's new manual.

"We started going through the manual and learning the game right away," she said. "We started planning, we prototyped stuff and we built a really robust, consistent, good robot."

Dewing said it was the best robot the TechnoKats have had since she's joined the team. Members spend about 12.5 hours every week preparing for competition.

The TechnoKats' robot broke down at competitions several times last year. They changed their strategy this year, opting to keep their robot's parts from extending past its bumpers. You can watch the team explain its design philosophy on YouTube by searching "Behind the Bumpers 45 TechnoKats."

Brown said the team is feeling confident going into the state competition, which will be held April 5-7 at Lafayette Jefferson High School. He added the team aims to use it as a stepping stone to analyze what it needs to work on going into the world championship.

The competitions will be free to attend, and team members said they would like to see community members show up wearing blue and red.

"Watching robots slam into each other, whether it's your robot or not, it's interesting to see," Brown said. "The energy is always high."

Looking back to 2016, Brown remembered watching the TechnoKats compete and receive blue banners that recognized their success.

"I just saw them handed out and I was like, 'that's cool, what if I won something like that?'" Brown said. "To actually be able to win something like that and be a winner in something that I've adored since I was a child, it is amazing."

Northwestern heads into competition

Northwestern High School's robotics team, CyberTooth, will compete Saturday and Sunday at Plainfield High School.

The team's robot zipped around a course in the AndyMark warehouse Tuesday afternoon. Students on the team said it could reach a top speed around 18 feet per second, which would be a little faster than 12 mph.

"Our robot performed really well. We're really happy with it," the team's lead mentor Liz Smith said of CyberTooth's first competition in the season. "We're excited to get back and do even better."

Lydia Keiter, a junior on the team, said they were focusing on practicing maneuvers going into the weekend competition. CyberTooth focused on building a compact, fast robot this year.

James Bennett III can be reached at 765-454-8580 or james.bennett@kokomotribune.com.