St.John-Hudson robotics team members took on state competition Saturday bringing home experiences that will last a lifetime.
Face-to-face communication, perseverance, problem solving and teamwork are qualities some think lacking in today's youth, but at St. John-Hudson High School where a robotics teams worked to qualify for state recently, those qualities were in high demand and readily visible.
"The thing I like most about robotics is the teamwork," said state competition qualifier Ethan Huston. "It's really helped me grow as a person and learn to know my friends. This is a whole different level of problem-solving."
Huston, along with Connor Engle and Jeffrey Lyon, qualified for state and competed in Hutchinson on Saturday with their self-built bot "Copy Machine."
"It was kind of joke how it got named," Huston said. "We really liked an idea another team was already using so we just modified for ourselves. They started calling us the copy machine and it stuck."
For the state competition, the St. John robotics team of Huston, Engle and Lyon were randomly paired with a team from another school. They then had to work together to solve a task problem, combining their skills and abilities.
"I went to state last year so I had a little idea of what to expect, but the game we had to solve was a lot harder," Huston said. "We had to find a way to stack cones in two ways, one task was stationary, the other was mobile."
Solving the problem involved coding, engineering and working together with others, traits that teacher Andrea Siefkes thinks will carry over long in life past high school robotics.
"It was very expensive to get this program started here in St. John," she said. "But we had a lot of supporters and the benefits for these kids can't be measured. It teaches them to think and follow through with ideas. They develop perseverance to finish a task that becomes so valuable later on."
Though their team didn't place in the top finishers or win any awards at the state competition, Huston said the experience was worth his time.
"You have to be committed and make a lot of sacrifices as far as time to do this," Huston said. "We worked on our bot in class, after class, when we had a minute of free time from other classes. All in all it was a great experience. It has helped me decide what I want to do after high school."
Huston said he will pursue a career in computer engineering based on his experiences in high school robotics.
"The class we have here opened my eyes to what could be done," he said.
Siefkes said this is only the second year she has been able to offer the robotics class at St. John, but there was a lot of interest from students willing to work hard and solve problems.
"They have to get organized, strategize and communicate face-to-face," she said. "Kids need that. It's a valuable experience."
Saturday's state competition involved getting up very early and working all morning and early afternoon. Huston and Siefkes said they were very happy to see all the local supporters who traveled to Hutchinson to watch them perform with their bots.
"It's awesome for our school and our community," said Siefkes.
There were 24 teams from Kansas schools that qualified for the state robotics competition. St. John-Hudson has four robotics teams but only one qualified for state. The team of Huston, Engle and Lyon qualified through the skills competition category.