By Todd Martin
Special to the Daily Herald
Meadows Elementary School's robotics teams finished in the top 10 at state for the first time ever - twice.
The TechRoBoys finished in third place and the TechWreck finished in ninth place at the Texas Computer Educators Association state tournament in San Angelo April 9.
The two teams finished in first and second place at an area competition to qualify for state. A third team from Meadows finished in third place, just missing qualification.
Stephanie Young, Meadows campus instructional technologist and the robotics sponsor the past four years, said the fifth-grade team members worked well under pressure, making adjustments without adult coaching as the rules require.
The students said they could have done even better, but were gratified to set a new standard for their team.
The game that 33 state-qualified teams played in the TCEA tournament took on a scenario familiar to oil spills.
Soft drink cans represented oil rigs and tuna fish cans represented oil cans. Students
programmed their robots to move the cans about, keeping a safe distance from the walls and preventing an "oil spill."
Young, who led the group for the fourth year, congratulated the team members for their historic finish in a competition that included both elementary and middle school teams.
Every year Meadows has competed, the school has qualified at least one team to go to state, but until this year, never finished higher than 13th place. This year, Shoemaker High School qualified two teams and Killeen High School qualified one team for the state event.
Young said the students made their own choices, going for high-point tasks that kept them in the top 10 during the three-round match.
Teacher Helen Kenyon, another robotics sponsor, said the after-school practice sessions since January trained the fifth-graders to think on their feet.
"They practiced to be able to create and decide as they go," she said.
Young also praised the parents, who traveled to the area and state competitions so their children could take part.
"It was scary. It made me nervous," said Christopher Fuertes, who competed with the third-place TechRoBoys.
"Scary and fun," is how Johnny Rourke of TechWreck described the state experience.
Vanessa Orozco said it was clear that the state level was more serious and competitive than the area level.
"It helped us in science and math," Rourke said.
"Overall, it was a good experience," said Jacob Nuttall. "We did our best."