HIGH SPRINGS ‒ Never underestimate what a small group of 5th to 8th graders can accomplish given the proper guidance and motivation. On April 23, the High Springs Brewing company sponsored a fundraiser to send the Frogmen Robotics Team to the International Robotics Competition held in Long Beach, Calf. from May 12 - 14. The competition pits the 80 best robotics teams in the world against each other and is only open by invitation.

For the High Springs Frogman Robotics, it is the reward for two years of hard work by a new team The team, which has only been in existence for two years, has eight members ranging from 5th to 8th grade.

In its first year, the team proved it was a serious competitor, missing being invited to the world competition by one place. This close call served to make the members work even harder. This year they came in 2nd for robotics out of 647 teams that competed for the Florida State Championship and were invited to attend the international competition.

Out-of-state trips for teams can get expensive, and the Brewery along with the coaches scheduled a fundraiser to help defer some of the cost. The Steak-Out Restaurant was also instrumental in making the event happen, providing a food truck and helping with the planning, and also sponsored a 50-50 raffle. In the evening, 2911 Bar-B-Que took over the food offerings. Winn Dixie provided all the meat for the BBQ. Other sponsors were Triple A Porta Serve and High Springs Parks and Recs Department.

The Frogmen team set up a table to demonstrate their robots doing a variety of tasks and let other children run them with supervision. “It was a good success and we raised $6,500 to help pay for our trip” said coach Jason Sweat. “We couldn’t have done it without the support of both our sponsors and the members of the community who showed their support and contributed to our funds.”

Although Sweat is the team’s coach, he stresses that the coach’s role is more of a mentor than coach. Team members have to do everything from initial planning, design and production of the robots. “We are just here to advise them,” said Sweat. “This not only gives them experience in robotics and AI, but it helps them build character traits and a sense of responsibility that will carry on in their adult life regardless of the career path they choose.”

Sweat added, “We like to say that it is not about kids building robots, buy rather, robots building kids.”

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