Local students head to World Robotics Finals

Local students head to World Robotics Finals
UMATILLA, Ore. - Forida Gulf Coast University took - not only the college basketball scene - but the nation by storm. The first time a 15-seed has ever reached the sweet sixteen. Well it seems we may have a Cinderella story of our own, switching gears to a completely different world - robotics. Umatilla high school - a school of 400 kids - recently took first place at the Spokane regional robotics tournament, catapulting them to the world finals in St. Louis. An extra curricular activity that teaches - not only about math and science - but sports and life.

They go by Team Confidential - otherwise known in the robotic world as FRC Team 4125. A group made up of 14 Umatilla High School students. And their head mentor - a 6th grade math teacher.

"There are kids that want to do something, but they don't have that niche," said head mentor Kevin Sipe.

But now they do. Two years ago, Kyle helped create a Robotics team. Giving students an extra curricular activity with the goal of building robots to compete in state wide events.

"It does feel like we are in a sport in our own, and our robot is our player - like us on the field," said Anay Mendoza.

Anay Mendoza tells me she was always a shy person - until she joined Team Confidential.

"I was in this little tiny shell and I wasn't that social, but I've been breaking out of that shell and become more interactive," said Mendoza.

Anay is now one of the most vocal and social members on the team. She is the one talking and asking questions to competing teams. But she only has one regret.

"The only bad part of this whole thing is not doing it last year," said Mendoza.

Caitlin Nelson was on the team last year. She even chose to give up playing tennis just so that she could be on the robotics team.

"It challenges your brain to think in a way that your not used to," said Caitlin Nelson.

Part of the challenge - for this year - is to create a robot that will shoot frisbees. Racking up as many points as possible. Caitlin says it's a true team effort.

"I am learning more about myself and how I can help other people with their situations, their learning styles," said Nelson.

And as any true underdog situations end - victory cannot be described.

"The moment we had accomplished the goal we set out, like we did it, it was just the most amazing feeling in the world," said Mendoza.

"We planned on being successful, just not so soon," said Sipe.

Now, only in their second year the team gets set for the World Finals. Their mentor only has one message.

"Continue to compete, but still enjoy the ride, they are an amazing group of kids and that's why we're here, because of their hard work," said Sipe.

Work that is beginning to take notice - starting St. Louis.

Kevin Sipe tells me that success is not a bad thing, but part of the problem being such an unknown - like any other team - is funding. Team Confidential has been able to receive over 30 thousand dollars in grants from organizations like NASA, but not enough was planned for a possible trip to St. Louis. They have raised around nine thousand out of 15 thousand, but need more help.