The Franklin Road Academy RoboPanther team 97934U, comprised of seniors Garrison Harold and Christopher May and junior Claire Conley, won the 2021 VEX Robotics Tennessee State Championship. The tournament was held on Saturday, April 17 and featured 36 robotics teams from across the state.
“I am so proud of Garrison, Christopher, and Claire. They have spent countless hours preparing, prototyping, iterating, coding, building, driving, and updating their engineering design notebook since last August,” said Kelly Huddleston, robotics coach. “Their work ethic and dedication have paid off with the State Championship title.”
May has been involved in robotics for six years, two in middle school and all four years of high school. “I have always wanted to be an engineer and saw that robotics would be the best place for me to learn and grow by constantly going through the engineering process,” said May. “Winning the State Championship was a lot of hard and tedious work from the very beginning, but it was all worth it in the end.”
Harold has been on the team for four years and serves as the primary builder, coder, and driver. He is no stranger to competing at the highest level possible. In addition to his State Championship win this year, Harold’s team was state runners-up during his freshman and junior years, qualifying them for the World Championship.
“Competing in the World Championship was one of the most exhilarating events of my high school career,” said Harold. “The intensity of the competition combined with all of the effort that everyone put into their robot made for the most fun competition I have ever competed in.”
Conley joined the RoboPanthers last year as a sophomore. “I really love the friendly atmosphere at our competitions. Everyone comes with the attitude of a true sportsman,” said Conley. “People from other schools walk up to me and never shy away from starting a conversation or giving me a compliment on my light-up goggles, and I have never felt more welcome.”
May, Harold, and Conley are now turning their attention to preparing for the 2021 VEX Robotics World Championship which takes place remotely May 17-22. The team will be competing virtually from their robotics space in FRA’s state-of-the-art Innovation Lab and will take on three other teams from all around the world during each of their 10 qualification matches.
Both Harold and May plan to pursue STEM related programs in college and major in computer science with minors in mechanical engineer. Harold will attend Union University in the fall, and May will attend Clemson University.
In addition to capturing the State title, FRA robotics coach Huddleston received the Tennessee VEX Robotics Teacher of the Year award. “I never expected this,” said Huddleston. “I do what I do because I love my students. The public affirmation is greatly appreciated, especially in such a difficult year, but honestly, watching my students learn and grow and compete with integrity is the best reward.”