Reigning world champion high school robotics team ready to defend title

In a club about robotics, you might assume robots are the focus.

"It's geek sports. That's what I call it. It's geek sports," said Dan Kinzer, Palm Harbor University High School Robotics Club Mentor.

However, his program is really about engineering. All the effort that goes into designing, programming, and building a machine that can consistently run.

"All the teams are given a game every season. They start at the beginning of the season knowing nothing about what they're going to do. Then they create and build a robot to play that game," explained Kinzer.

This season, about 60 students joined the robotics club at Palm Harbor University High School, dividing into five teams.

"Each team comes together at the beginning of the season and decides who is going to be on the building team, who's going to be on the programing team, who's going to be on the CAD team, computer-aided design, and who's going to be on the note booking team to make these engineering portfolios," said club president, Ayush Pai.

The FIRST Tech Challenge competition is fierce. For the last 15 years, the club has competed at the local, state, and world levels.

READ Interactive learning space uses robotics to help students thrive

"At the last competition, we actually set the state record of 234 points in the state of Florida," Pai said.

Another PHUHS team took home the FIRST Robotics World Championship title in 2019, beating out hundreds of others from about 34 countries or regions.  

This weekend, 17 teams from the Florida Gulf Coast Robotics League will compete; but only five will advance to States. Two based on how many points their robot scores and three others picked by judges.

"Those are really the more important ones because they go around, and they check on your engineering portfolio, your whole process, your outreach events and all of that," said Pai.

Skills that can only help these students in the future.

That league championship is being held at Palm Harbor University High School. The matches kick off Saturday morning at 10 a.m.