AP NEWS

Pee Dee students show their skills in robotics competition

January 13, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – Williams Middle School hosted a Pee Dee League FIRST Tech Challenge Saturday morning.

Its two teams, named Florence Robotics and Williams Middle School, finished in fifth and sixth places out of eight places.

Latta High School’s teams finished in first and second places, the Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics finished in fourth and seventh places, Mayo High School finished in eighth place and a Myrtle Beach-area team finished in third place.

During the robotics competition, eight teams from across the Pee Dee performed tasks with the space-themed game Rover Ruckus. These tasks ranged from lowering their robots from a lander to moving materials, which were whiffle balls and blocks, to specially marked areas in the 12-foot-by-12-foot arena.

During each of the ten matches, four teams were put into pairs and tried to get the most points by accomplishing tasks during a two-and-a-half minute game.

Team mentor Walter Everette said working with students in the matches is time consuming, but rewarding, for him.

“A lot of the students never get the opportunity to work with their hands because they’re doing class work, so it’s rewarding to see them get this opportunity,” Everette said.

Everette has helped with robotics teams for the past 15 years: 13 years at the high school level and two years at the middle school level. Everette said he began helping with the robotics team while working at Roche.

Parent Tara Small has a child on the Williams Middle School team.

Small said the children learn teamwork skills, basic engineering skills and problem-solving skills. She said the competitions also open career path possibilities for children and provides for some scholarship opportunities.

Small also coaches a younger FIRST Lego League for children in grades four through eight.

The Williams Middle School teams have another league meet next weekend in Conway and then a regional competition on Feb. 2 in North Charleston.