The Cougar Pride Robotics Team from Central High School competed against robotics teams from Missouri, Arkansas, and Tennessee at the Rover Ruckus, a FIRST Tech Arkansas Robotics Competition Qualifer, held at the Boys and Girls Club of Phillips County and qualified for the state competition to be held February 9 in Springdale.

Cougar Pride placed 6th out of 15 teams. CHS Robotics Coach Tory Cottle, who is in her second year as the founding coach of the program, said she was excited about the team’s performance. She said, “We may not have the nicest facilities right now or the most expensive robot, but our students have the intelligence, heart, and hustle to be the best team in the state. We are looking forward to making some needed improvements to the bot over the next couple of weeks.” Helena-West Helena Central is the only school in this area of the state with a robotics program.

HWHSD Interim Superintendent Linda English was also thrilled with the team’s performance. She said, “This is a great accomplishment for our Robotics Team to be able to go on and compete at the State level. I commend the students for putting in the hard work and displaying outstanding team work. Ms. Cottle is the driving force in guiding the team to successful competition and an outstanding facilitator for the students.”

The teams have been working for months to build functional robots from scratch that can accomplish various tasks. The robots score points by placing gold and silver “minerals” into a mock Mars Lander. The Cougar robot, named “Saucebot” by the team, is able to perform tasks that are programmed using a computer software. They also have 3-D printed parts added to their bot. The robot is controlled by two Xbox controllers - one to control the robot arm, and the other to control the wheels. The robot drivers for this qualifier were Layla Porter and Sir Frederick Spiceson. The driver coach was Nicholas Williams. The drivers and the driver coach are in the 9th grade. Paulette Hernandez, 7th grade, represented the media, taking photos and videos of the competition. Other members of the team include: Paulette Hernandez, Devon Green, Kymmora McKinney, Ravius Benson, Alexus Franklin, Khyri Dodd, and Nakia Dukes.

The next match for the team will be in Hot Springs on January 12. Beginning January 5th, the high school team members (students in grades 9-12) will begin constructing and programming a 120-pound robot for Arkansas FIRST, while the junior high members (students in grades 7-8) will be mentored by the older members to improve the already constructed robot for the FIRST Tech Challenge.