DHS Robotics Team Qualifies for State Competition


The team worked on building one robot all year that competed in all the tournaments.

Carly Collins

On Dec. 10, the Decatur High School (DHS) robotics team qualified for the state championships of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics Competition, or the FRC. The state championship competition will be held on Feb. 24 and 25 at Riverside Preparatory Academy. 

According to club sponsor Dierdre Pierce, at the qualifying tournament on Dec. 10, there were around 38 teams competing. The DHS FRC team, self-named the “Energizer Bunnies”, was one of ten who qualified to move on to states. This is the team’s second time qualifying while Peirce has been the sponsor of the team, but they have never won the FRC state championship. 

To qualify for states, a team must win one of ten unique awards. “Some [teams] win because they’ve done something innovative with their build,” Pierce explained, “Some win because [of] the processes they’ve laid out, and that’s called the ‘Think Award’, which is what we got last year.”

This year, the DHS FRC team won the “Motivator Award” for their tight involvement with the robotics team of Beacon Hill Middle School and the teams of certain City Schools of Decatur elementary schools.

The team holds practices and scrimmages using a homemade course in Pierce’s room.

“The middle school team practices here on Mondays, and we hosted a scrimmage for the elementary and middle school teams,” Pierce said, “Because of the scrimmage, we won the Motivator award, meaning we bring more people into robotics.”

In further efforts to raise awareness of the school’s program and encourage more participation, the team attended DHS’s club fair on Sept. 15 to teach more students about the presence of the team and the many benefits of robotics. Additionally, the team held a scrimmage against the middle school team during a DHS Varsity basketball game on Dec. 2 to demonstrate their robots’ abilities to all of the fans. According to the team’s official informational guide, they “decided this was a great idea for outreach, as [they] would be able to reach larger audiences who were likely not aware of [the] school’s robotics team.”

However, inclusion of younger students and spreading awareness of the program was not all that was required to achieve all of their success. Pierce explained the processes of the weekly tournaments that occurred every Saturday in meet season, which runs from late October through November. “At every tournament, you compete five times and that’s how you earn your ranks.” 

The Motivator Award trophy is displayed in the Energizer Bunnies’ practice space.

Being a public school, the team faced some additional challenges. “There are some amazing robots, there are some teams that are very well funded and they have some amazing stuff,” Pierce said, “There are teams that actually have robot classes because we compete against private schools mostly and they can have robotics classes. We don’t have that. So everything that we do is after school.”

Aside from their weekends at meets, the team also dedicated three days a week to practices. The season started in September, when the team planned and built the robots, and meets started in October and carried on through November, according to Pierce. 

Their qualification for states isn’t the only success that Pierce believes is notable about their team. “The team is mostly girls, and we have students registered from freshmen

through seniors,” she mentioned. Collaboration from all ages and much female input brought the team to state championships this year.