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  • Fairbury News staff

Team eyes world competition

L-R: Nolan Verdun, PTHS; Nathan Powell, PC Junior High and Sam Powell, PC High School. (photo provided)

After winning the Iowa Regional FIRST Robotics Competition, a local team from Livingston County is looking ahead to competing on the world stage.

The Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County Wi-Fighterz Team #7848 has been chosen to participate in the world competition in Houston, Texas April 19-23. Team members will compete with 450 other robotics teams from around the nation and world.

“What it takes to get to this point are volunteer mentors and we couldn’t do it without them,” said Jodi Martin, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Livingston County on Thursday’s Fairbury Newsmakers show.

Students from Prairie Central High School, Prairie Central Junior High, Pontiac Township High School and St. Mary’s School make up the team which uses innovative engineering, creative thinking and teamwork to build up to a 120-pound robot.

This is project based and hands-on, introducing students to coding, programming and engineering in an environment where students work collaboratively and solve yearly robotics challenges.

“For the first time ever in Livingston County, our Wi-Fighterz team won the Iowa Regional Competition in Cedar Falls, Iowa,” explained Martin. This is only our second year of competing in person and the first year we were rookies and won Rookie of the Year.”

Under strict rules with limited time and resources, teams are challenged to raise funds, design a team “brand” and hone teamwork stills. They design, build and program industrial sized robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. Volunteer mentors lend their time and professional talents to guide each team. The season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship.

The ”For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology” (FIRST) theme for 2022 competition is, Innovation Takes Flight in RAPID REACT.

The team won the entire Regionals this year with 45 teams competing. Mentors included Ray Popejoy, Ty Cottrell, John Slagel, Scott Phares and Brandon Beyers. Nine students comprised the team and put in plenty of time after school throughout competition season.

Team members include Nolan Verdun and Aaron Verdun from Pontiac Township High School, Isaac and Henry Yedinak from St. Mary’s, Sam Powell from Prairie Central High School and Nathan Powell, Sam Honegger, Jackson Rothert and Asher Popejoy from Prairie Central Junior High.

Jodi Martin, left, and Jordan Hornickel of the Boys & Girls Club visit with Fairbury News Thursday.

A close-up view of the robotics team trophy.

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