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Last week, the eight students from Simms, Fairfield, and Vaughn schools that make up team 724 RedNek Robotics Wun headed to Houston to compete against 159 other robotics teams in the First Tech Challenge (FTC) Co-World Championship. Over 7,000 teams from 90+ countries and all 50 states competed this year, 160 advancing to Houston Worlds and 160 to Detroit Worlds.

Rednek Robotics is no stranger to Worlds; they’ve had appearances in 4 of the last 5 World Championships, winning 3 of them. This year, team members Luke Ostberg and Adeline Hahn from Fairfield, Xander Digan, Marshall Kunkel, Mandy Widmer, and Halee Hane from Simms, and Carsten Brooks and Andrew Hanson from Vaughn spent nearly 10,000 hours since September programming, building, and designing the orange, green, and duct tape covered robot, affectionately nicknamed “Winton.”

Qualification matches, 9 per team, took place over Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. RedNek was thrilled to be paired with Data Force, a team we’re close friends with, for our first match. We combined to score 500 points; a record that stood in Jemison Division for the next hundred matches. But, we had some bad luck too. After the last day of qualification rounds, we were ranked 13th due to dropping two matches to avoidable issues for an overall record of 6-3. With the top four teams picking two alliance partners each, we began looking for an alliance to pick us. After a late night drive practicing with several alliance captains and talking about potential second picks, we happily accepted an invitation from 9829 MAKBots to join their alliance with 11260 Up-A-Creek Robotics.

After winning tightly contested semi finals matches, RedNek moved on to Division Finals. It came down to a third match. Holding our breath, we watched as the score was released. The live scoring showed that we’d lost by 30, so we were expecting to be eliminated, but penalties on Data Force caused us to win. The crowd went crazy, and all of us in the queuing area behind the field did too, jumping up and down, yelling, hugging and high-fiving as we realized we’d be playing on Minute Maid Field that night.

We’ll remember running through the CO2 cannons with our teammates and alliance onto Minute Maid Field, seeing old friends and making new ones, and having our robot compete one last time. When the finals scores were posted on the jumbotron, they may not have been in our favor, but we were thrilled to be part of the 2nd place alliance and play at Worlds.

Thanks for all the support from the community this year. We couldn’t do it without all the people that have stood behind us, from sponsors to mentors to family and friends. A huge shout-out in particular to our amazing mentor Chuck Merja too; we couldn’t do this without him.

From scouting robots in 180 qualification matches to fixing robot breakdowns to catching up with our friends from Robominers and Data Force, we loved every minute of Worlds and are excited for next years game, Skystone, and making another run at Worlds!