Kalamazoo's Hillside Middle School Robotics Team won the First Tech Challenge state championship in Battle Creek on December 15th, earning a trip to the First Robotics World Championship in Detroit in April.

Reminiscent of something from an early episode of the Big Bang Theory,

the team won the middle school competition, which was called “Rover Ruckus” this year. It required them to build and program a robot that would simulate a land rover on a mission to explore a planet and collect mineral samples.
The robot was required to descend from a landing module, travel to collection locations, sort and collect samples, travel back to the landing pod and —for extra points — re-board the module.  The robot the students designed, built and programmed could be no bigger than 18 inches in height, width and length, and it was designed to operate in a 12 x 12 foot playing field. The robot had to operate as an autonomous vehicle for the first 30 seconds of the contest, and was operated by students for the remaining 90 seconds of competition.- Kalamazoo Public Schools release

The Hillside team members were: Annie Alkema, Nick Alkema, Maxwell Johnson, Justin Nguyen, and Sean Willoughby.

“Some people think this program is a robot building competition. That’s not really the intent. The main goal is to develop critical thinking and analytical skills,” said team coach Hiep Ngyuen.