Editorial: Many deserve thanks for robotics teams' success

They are called The Fighting Mongooses.

And they are ready for battle.

No, this isn't a sports team or competitors in a video game. The Fighting Mongooses are a collection of students from right here in Whitfield County that get to enjoy the thrill of competition while learning valuable lessons in science and technology, solving problems and working together as a unit.

The Career Blazers Robotics — The Fighting Mongooses from the Northwest Georgia College & Career Academy have done this so well that the team has advanced to the FIRST Robotics World Championship twice in four years, most recently last month in Houston. FIRST is an acronym for For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.

What is robotics? According to the FIRST organization, robotics combines "the excitement of sport with the rigors of science and technology. ... Under strict rules, limited resources and an intense six-week time limit, teams of students are challenged to raise funds, design a team 'brand,' hone teamwork skills and build and program industrial-size robots to play a difficult field game against like-minded competitors. It’s as close to real-world engineering as a student can get. Volunteer professional mentors lend their time and talents to guide each team. Each season ends with an exciting FIRST Championship."

In addition to the educational and competitive components, the students benefit from the ability to travel to new places, meet new people and experience new things.

Betzy Cruz, a senior at Southeast Whitfield High School and a member of The Fighting Mongooses, said the trip to Houston was "a week I'll never forget," noting, "It was interesting meeting people from other countries and watching them incorporate their culture in competing."

And about those professional mentors, the robotics students at the Career Academy and our other local schools would not be able to have those wonderful and important experiences without those mentors, such as Brian Cooksey, director of workforce development at Shaw Industries. Shaw was one of the Career Academy team's sponsors.

Cooksey said it was great seeing the local students interact with students from more than 40 countries in Houston.

"It was an amazing opportunity for 42 team members and seven sponsors traveling to Houston," he said. "We appreciate the generous donors and sponsors who helped make this possible."

We also appreciate the donors, sponsors, mentors and educators who make the robotics teams possible here locally. The North Murray High School Mountaineers and the Dalton High School Catabots also competed in the Peachtree District Qualifier at the Dalton Convention Center in March, and the Catabots and The Fighting Mongooses competed in the state championship at LakePoint Champions Center in Emerson in April.

We congratulate these students for their hard work, ingenuity and creativity in making their teams a success, and we commend the donors, sponsors, mentors and educators for helping to provide the students with such useful and memorable experiences. Well done!

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