By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Kershaw County robotics team hosts open house Monday
2015 FTC Team Picture Web
The FIRST Tech Challenge team includes (from left, front row) Michael Hanlon, Hudson Huckfeldt and Stefon Aaron from Camden Military Academy; and Daniel Putnam and Kelly Welch from Camden Middle School. On the back row are (from left) mentors Paul Sullivan, Jamie Hames and Henry Bull - photo by Provided by the KCSD

The Kershaw County Robotics Team (KC Robotics Team) will hold its annual open house on Monday from 5 to 7 p.m. in the Lugoff-Elgin High School Annex building. During the open house, the public will have the chance to talk to team members and mentors about the multiple aspects involved in designing and building different robots, the excitement of participating in the various competitions, and they will be able to test drive the robots.

The KC Robotics Team is open to 6th through 12th grade students of Kershaw County schools, including public, private and home schools. The team participates every year in two robot challenges designed by FIRST® ( and other off season competitions.

The middle school students and some high school students designed the “small robot” which competed in the FIRST Tech Challenge® (FTC®) at the end of January. In this year’s challenge, “Cascade Effect,” the robot is expected to score points by picking up plastic balls and inserting them in goals of different heights which then need to be guided to the team goal. During this year’s state competition, the team was able to advance to the elimination rounds, but during the semifinals, one of the robots in the alliance malfunctioned, which prevented moving on to the final round. During the awards ceremony, the KC Robotics Team was the recipient of two awards: 1st Place, Rockwell Collins Innovate Award; and 2nd place, FTC Inspire Award.

According to the competition manual, the Rockwell Collins Innovate Award “celebrates a team that not only thinks outside the box, but also has the ingenuity and inventiveness to make their designs come to life” and the FTC Inspire Award is presented to a team that “has performed well in all Judging categories and was chosen by the Judges as a model FIRST Tech Challenge Team.” The second award granted the team the opportunity to participate in the national competition in San Antonio, Texas, but due to lack of funding, the KC Robotics Team had to decline the invitation.

Students participating in the challenge were Michael Hanlon, Hudson Huckfeldt and Stefon Aaron from Camden Military Academy; and Daniel Putnam and Kelly Welch from Camden Middle School. Mentors Paul Sullivan, Jamie Hames, Henry Bull, and Julie Putnam assisted the students during the competition.

High school students were busy during the fall with two off season contests. In November, during a competition in Reidsville, N.C., the KC Robotics Team was part of the winning alliance for the second year in a row. Nine members of the team participated in the competition, including McKinley Levister, Jarrod Skrabak, Jordan Miller and Savanna Adams from Lugoff-Elgin High School; Ethan Welch, Sydney Conto and Sarah Grace Wohlwinder from Camden High School; and Breon Spencer and Will Ramsby from Camden Military Academy.

After the new challenge kicked off in January, the team had six weeks to design and build a new robot that could stack totes up to six levels high, stack a recycling container on top of the totes and maneuver over “sidewalks.” At the Palmetto Regional, the robot performed well during the qualifying matches and was able to finish among the top 10 teams at the end of the first day. However, a series of computer issues and low performing partners produced lower scoring during the second day of matches and the team finished 31st out of 66. The team was not selected to compete in elimination matches, but, overall, the robot performance was satisfactory.

Students who participated in the Palmetto Regional were McKinley Levister, Jarrod Skrabak, Jordan Miller and Savanna Adams from Lugoff-Elgin High School; Ethan Welch and Sarah Grace Wohlwinder from Camden High School; Daniel Putnam and Kelly Welch from Camden Middle School; and Breon Spencer from Camden Military Academy. The students were assisted by team mentors Paul Sullivan, Henry Bull, Larry Slade, Julie Putnam, Letha Welch, Jamie Hames, Dave Stanek and Elena Gaston.

Building the robots is an expensive endeavor even though the team tries to reuse as many parts as possible from one year to the next. Just entering the FIRST Robotics Challenge® (FRC®) costs $5,000 annually. In addition, new parts for the specific challenge must be purchased and old or worn out pieces replaced. Robot competitions are fierce and place a heavy toll on the structural integrity of the robots, therefore only the best materials should be used in their assembly.

Throughout the year, the students and mentors in the team participate in various fundraising activities, such as the first Kershaw County Robotics Team Annual Bazaar, which will take place May 2 from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lugoff-Elgin High School Annex. The KC Robotics Team also depends on the invaluable support from different businesses and individuals which include Duke Energy, BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, Books on Broad, Lugoff-Elgin High School, the Applied Technology Education Campus, Lowe's, Walmart, Central Carolina Technical College, Myers Timber Company, the National Guard and State Rep. Laurie Slade Funderburk.

Just as important as the monetary contributions are the countless hours the volunteer mentors spend guiding the students in the design and building of the robot, planning events, and updating the website. The KC Robotics Team is thankful for their generosity with their time.

Some examples of how the KC Robotics Team is impacting our students include Ethan Welch, a Camden High School senior who is planning on majoring in Computer Science at the College of Charleston and thinks “being in the Robotics Team has helped [him] develop programming skills that will help [him] in college.” Savannah Adams, a Lugoff-Elgin freshman, finds the “designing and building parts of the robot practical in getting [her] ready to major in mechanical engineering.”

The KC Robotics Team is a 501(c)(3) organization and is continually seeking new supporters, student members and volunteers. If you would like to contribute to “changing the way we build our future” (the team’s slogan) by becoming a supporter, a student member, a volunteer mentor or through a one-time donation, please visit our website ( and contact Paul Sullivan at