CRESTVIEW — A team of Crestview students is packing up its robots and taking them on the road.
The Hub City Robotics team will compete in the Northwest FIRST LEGO League Regional Championship on March 3 at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City. The team advanced by winning a local tournament held at Shoal River Middle School in December.
This isn’t students' first trip outside of Okaloosa County. Last year, they went all the way to the FIRST LEGO League Championship in Houston where they competed against teams from all over the world.
FIRST is an acronym for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.” The LEGO League hosts competitions all over the country and is involved in 78 countries around the world.
Noah Steele is the team’s captain and has been competing in FLL for three years.
“My favorite part of this is probably just getting to know the theme of this year,” Steele said. “This helps me try to problem-solve and just basically use your mind and try to think of things that are out of the box.”
This year’s theme is hydrodynamics. The competition tasks teams with coming up with a real-world solution for a water-related problem. The team members invented a temperature-detecting sticker for water bottles warning people that they may contain unsafe levels of bisphenol A, a chemical commonly used in the manufacture of plastic bottles.
Casey Steele is Noah’s mother and one of the team coaches.
“It’s such an amazing thing that these kids have come up with,” she said. “When they brought all their ideas together, they kind of formed this one idea on how BPA is released when the water bottle is overheated.”
The team consists of four students who each attend different area schools. They started out together at Bob Sikes Elementary but when some of them moved on to other schools, they kept the team together by forming a new Hub City Robotics team.
Along with learning about robotics and other engineering skills, the students have to learn other real-world skills like public speaking, fundraising and entrepreneurship.
“They have to give presentations," Casey said. "They have to learn how to research (and) come up with solutions to these real-world problems. They have to practice their speaking and get along with each other. They have to get out in their community and work with each other.”
If the team wins the regional championship in Panama City, it will move on to the April 8 state invitational in Jacksonville.