CRESTVIEW — A group of Crestview kids will head to Houston next month to compete against robotics teams from around the world.

The Hub City Robotics team was named champions of the Northwest Florida FIRST LEGO League Regional Tournament, which was held in Panama City on March 3. The team advances to both the State Championship in Jacksonville on April 8 and the World Championship in Houston April 18 to 21.

It will be the second trip to the World Championship for most of the team. Last year, three of the four team members went to Houston as part of the Bob Sikes Elementary School team. They each went to different schools this year, but decided to stay together as an independent team – a move that paid off.

Elizabeth Vander Kooy is one of the returning members from that Bob Sikes team. She is excited to be going back to the World Championship for a second year.

“It feels really good,” she said. “Last year we were going a little more for the experience at Worlds, but this year we are going and we actually feel a little bit more competitive. We have a little more to give, and we know what we’re expecting.”

Crestview was well-represented at the regional competition this year, sending a total of six teams, including the Hub City Robotics team. Three of the teams were from Davidson Middle School. One was from Shoal River Middle School and another was from Walker Elementary School. Two of those teams, the DMS LabRatz and SRMS Lethal LEGOs, also received bids to the State Championship.

“I was just so proud of Crestview,” team coach Emily Vander Kooy said. “I’m a local. I grew up here, so it just makes my heart happy to see so many teams from Crestview representing this robotics community. I think if more people were aware of it, there would be a lot more involvement.”

The theme of this year’s competition was Hydro Dynamics. Teams had to identify and solve a real-world water-related problem using technology. The Hub City team developed an idea for a temperature-sensitive sticker for water bottles that warns consumers of potentially harmful levels of bisphenol A, a chemical used in the manufacture of plastic bottles that has been linked to cancer.

Another event in the competition was the Robot Game, about building and programming an autonomous robot to perform specific tasks. The robot navigates a board with different stations and performs tasks of varying degrees of difficulty. The theme of the tasks was also water-related.

The trip to the World Championship comes with a price tag, though. Emily Vander Kooy estimates that the trip will cost around $10,000. Team members do a lot of the fundraising work, but the team is also looking for sponsors.

“If you’re interested in supporting science and technology, and expanding their minds for the future, it’s just unreal what these kids have learned through this program and what they’ll experience at the World Festival,” Vander Kooy said.

The team will be holding a fundraising event at Marquis Cinema 10 the evening of March 24. They will have their robot game table on display for demonstrations and will be announcing raffle winners and taking donations for the upcoming trips to Houston and Jacksonville.

For more information on sponsorship, visit the Hub City Robotics Facebook page, or email the team at