5 OC high school teams advance to championship round of international robotics contest

Hundreds of high school students from across the region competed this weekend in teams with remote-controlled robots they assembled for an outer space challenge.

Teams maneuvered their 120 pound robots through the contest called Destination Deep Space. The robots were designed to navigate on the fictional Planet Primus, faced with the task of collecting samples to send back to planet Earth ahead of a crippling sandstorm.

students control robots in a contestThrough several days, the teams competed in the tournament-style rounds, with those efficiently collecting the most samples earning the highest scores. The event at the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa was the regional round of the international 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition. Through the contest about 100,000 high-school students on 3,790 teams competed at 146 venues around the world.

Five Orange County teams qualified for the championship round, to be held April 17 to 20 in Houston. The teams are: Rōnin Robotics from from Portola High School in Irvine; the Friarbots from Rosary, Cornelia Connelly and Servite schools in Anaheim; SMbly Required from Santa Margarita Catholic High School in Rancho Santa Margarita; Quantum Leap from Oxford Academy in Cypress; and Surf City Vikings from Marina High in Huntington Beach.

Teams were given six weeks to design, build and program a robot with the help of mentors, such as professional engineers from their communities.

FIRST Senior Regional Director David Berggren told the San Diego Union-Tribune that the competition aims to equip students with an array of skills and stimulate innovation.

“With the future of where we’re headed with technology and the use of technology in so many industries, we need a way to get kids excited about the STEM fields — Science, Technology, Engineering and Math,” he said to the Union-Tribune.

Below is a video of one of this weekend’s playoff rounds.