Lufkin High School students build robot as part of national competition

By Lane Luckie - bio | email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - A group of students at Lufkin High School do not have diplomas yet, but that isn't stopping them from tackling the world of robotics.

Through a competition called FIRST, they are exploring the field of science and technology. Austin Airington, a junior said, "It's more of just a fun activity, just something to do and it just comes with so many benefits like college and job training."

Each student brings a special skill or interest to the team. "You have to have the mechanical team and the programmers. You have to have the hardware team, and they all have to come in together with their designs, their ideas on programming, and motors. Everything is so important. It's all intertwined," said Heriberto Macias, a senior.

Pantherbots, as they call themselves, have until February 17th to build a robot following specific guidelines.  Then they will compete against other Texas teams in a head-to-head match. However, getting to that point takes some tough decisions. "What type of design and what components to use with the robot (are decided). Because with everyone's input we simply can't move forward," Macias said.

The students have overcome some big obstacles. Things like a 6 thousand dollar entry fee almost kept them from the competition but fundraising and grants from NASA and the Greater Texas Foundation keep these kids learning every step of the way.

Their teacher Robyn Segrest said, "It's a whole new concept for a lot of them." They say "Wow, I can use this someplace?" It's not all about learning science and math. Segrest said the best lessons must be lived. "They learn how to deal with each other. They learn from each other and they teach each other. The most important thing to me is that they learn they can make a difference, not just for themselves, but for the community and the world."

While these students are only building robots today, it is actually motivating the next generation of thinkers. "It's never been about winning, or who wins, or doing your best. It's all about learning engineering, learning robotics, inspiring yourself and having a whole lot of fun with it," said Airington.

When the students finish their robot, they will ship off the 120 pound creation to be inspected. Their first test is a regional competition in Katy, Texas on March 26th.