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CHICAGO — The Taft High School robotics team has designed a machine that can shoot a basketball through a hoop. And now it’s taking aim at a bigger goal: The international competition in the First Robotics Championship in Houston.

“We’re really excited to be going,” Yehansa Dissanayake, a Taft High School junior, said.

The team known as the “Robotics Eagles” will compete against 500 other high school teams from around the world, after winning the Midwest regional competition.  

“I was crying in tears when I found out we were going to Texas,” student Madison Orduno said.  

The event combines the excitement of sports with the rigors of academics. 

This year’s teams were required to develop and build robots around a theme – transportation and delivery — in just six weeks. The robots must carry cargo and climb equipment.  

“The balls are called cargo and your goal is to score them in a lower goal or a higher goal. Our robot uses vision targeting to actually shoot the balls up at the high goal,” Tony Schmidt, the Taft High School Robotics teacher said.

The Taft team is hoping to raise money for the trip.   

“With unexpected sudden travel, it’s very expensive,” Schmidt said. “We’re hoping to raise the funds not only so we can get there, but also so we can grow the program into the future.” 

The competition is viewed by science students as a ‘sport for the mind,’ which requires innovation, creativity, and problem-solving skills.  Competitive robotics teams can cost as much as $30,000 a year for materials, equipment, and travel. The Taft team is trying to raise $25,000 to go to the competition. More information and ways to donate on their website.