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KC Robotics Team wins state championship

Posted: February 21, 2014 4:15 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2014 5:00 a.m.
Photos courtesy of KCSD/

Kershaw County’s FIRST Robotics Competition team took second place during October’s South Carolina Robotics Invitational and Workshops (SCRIW) Competition, held at Irmo High School. Pictured here (left to right) are mentor Larry Slade; Camden High School students Sean Murphy, Ethan Welch and Joao Porto; Lugoff-Elgin High School student Bryce Fearing; and mentor Paul Sullivan.

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Kershaw County can boast about another championship team.

Earlier this month, the Kershaw County Robotics Team (KCRT) won first place in the FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) South Carolina State Championship. The Kershaw County team earned the spot in alliance with teammates from the S.C. Governor’s School for Science and Mathematics.

FIRST represents “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology.”

Lugoff-Elgin High School (L-EHS) teacher Holly Sullivan learned about FIRST 10 years ago, in 2004. Sullivan then encouraged Kershaw County’s robotics team to compete in that year’s FTC event.

This year’s FIRST competition used the theme “Block Party” and required students to have their robots perform a variety of skills including picking up and placing blocks in baskets, balancing the baskets on a pendulum and raising a flag and hanging it from a pole.

KCRT winning members included Jaoa Porto, Camden High School (CHS); Daniel Putnam, Camden Middle School; Thomas Levister, Ammon Connell and Ashton Connell, Lugoff-Elgin Middle School; and Nathan Hensley, Stover Middle School. The team is mentored by volunteers Paul Sullivan, Henry Bull, Larry Slade and Dave Stanek.

While the FTC competition is open to both middle and high school students, Kershaw County also participates in FIRST’s Robotics Competition (FRC) for high school students.

In October, the district’s FRC team placed first during an event called Thundering Herd of Robots, or THOR, in North Carolina. Also in October, the KCRT came in second during the South Carolina Invitational and Workshops Competition.

In the FRC 2013 Challenge known as “Ultimate Aspect,” robots were required to shoot standard Frisbee discs into goals at the far end of a field as well as climb “jungle-gym”-like pyramids. Winning FRC team members then were Sean Murphy and Ethna Welch, CHS; and Bryce Fearing, L-EHS.

The district’s FRC team will next compete in the 11th Annual Palmetto Regional First Robotics Competition at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center, which starts Thursday and runs through March 1. The team is also working on the 2014 FRC Challenge where robots will score points by throwing 24-inch exercise game balls into low and high goals.

The KCRT’s mission is to inspire Kershaw County middle and high school students to become leaders through participation in mentor based FIRST robotics programs that build science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills that inspire innovation and foster well-rounded life capabilities including self-confidence, communication and leadership

The team meets the Kershaw County School District students’ needs by providing an afterschool program giving them the opportunity to improve interpersonal as well as STEM skills. STEM skills are directly able to be translated into improved performance in college and in the work force.

The need for these types of programs in South Carolina is evident, organizers said. Various sources show that the state is behind in STEM performance. The KCRT program helps address students’ lower STEM performance by providing them with real-world applications of STEM concepts to solve real problems, all in an encouraging and supportive environment.

The team also has numerous opportunities for volunteers to participate in team activities, including:

• Assisting in the design, construction, programming and operation of the robots. The team focuses on having students perform the work, but they require the good guidance on what realistic options they have to accomplish tasks with the robots.

• Teaching the students new skills, both technical and interpersonal. Many students have never used any tools so they need good training and guidance. Students also need guidance on developing interpersonal skills, which they receive when working in small groups on certain robot team activities.

• Ensuring the safety of the students while working with tools and materials. The team has access to a drill press, band saw, drills and other tools. Safety of the students is always a top priority and requires constant monitoring.

• Assisting with team organizational needs such as planning of team trips and fundraisers, coordinating design and purchase of team T-shirts and buttons.

• Assisting with team fundraising activities.

The KCRT is open to district students in grades 6-12. For more information, visit


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