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Triangle high school teams head to robotics world championships

By Rick Armstrong

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    NORTH CAROLINA (WRAL) — High school robotics teams representing Fuquay-Varina High School’s “Slice” team and the “RoboEagles” of Enloe are competing in Houston, Texas. Imagine “Battle Bots,” with schools from across the world pitting their robot creations against other teams.

But one way or another, this is a competition where everyone wins.

The competition called First Championship attracts students who love a high-tech challenge.

Thirteen teams from North Carolina, including Slice and the RoboEagles, headed to Houston for the world championships April 17-20, 2024.

Ahead of the trip, students were refining and re-tuning their creations. Students conceive, design and create the coding which make these robots “battle ready.”

Team Slice is overseen by Norm Dion, a teacher at Fuquay-Varina High School. He said, “It takes a lot of time, but it’s compressed. It’s a very short schedule, but there’s a lot of work to do.”

The hard work of student fundraising along with sponsorships and grants make it all possible. “We spend $17,000 just to register for events,” said Dion.

RoboEagles advisor Greg Dunko says he’s had a lot of sleepless nights. “We’ve been meeting and honestly the kids are driving it but you know, they want to meet every night, you know,” he said laughing.

Cary senior Raza Alam says he loves the excitement. “There’s a big part of these competitions are chanting and screaming and cheering, so you can feel the energy in the room and it’s very, very exciting.”

Slice robots obey their master programming. Dion explained, “They are not driving. It’s called autonomous.” The robots complete required tasks, and they do it with speed.

The more rings that hit the target the higher the score. This isn’t just fun and games. The skills the students learn attract attention from talent scouts.

“So they are highly sought after for internships and of course jobs, after they figure out college,” said Dion.

Dunko said, “They are learning to work on teams. They’re learning to collaborate. They’re learning to make decisions under pressure.”

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