Utica High School robotics team wins international championship

Image 1 of 8

Metro Detroit is home to some world champions all thanks to dozens of high school students and a robot they named Alexa.

An international robotics competition brought in tens of thousands of people from across the globe but the prize belongs to a talented group of whiz kids from Utica.

Alexa is the brainchild of Utica Center for Math Science and Technology students. High schoolers from across the world descended on Detroit for the annual First Robotics Competition. 

"The robot had to move around dodge balls and plastic hatch panels in order to fill up a rocket in a cargo ship so you could leave the planet," said senior Emma Fidler.

Fidler, a senior, will soon be on her way to Wayne State University to study astrophysics. It may not be rocket science, but it's phenomenal that in just six weeks, high schoolers collaborated with engineers from Ford to make this happen. 

"I joined a team not really knowing how to use power tools or these fancy electronics," said Ian Vermeulen. "And just learning from them, it taught me everything I needed to know to help make this robot a successful as I could. It almost becomes a family with these people."

A family that's part of a winning tradition. This is the third tome Utica has won this world championship. Teachers are prepping the students to learn not just robotics but the other skills they will need in the real world. 

"We have a PR group that works with getting the message out about the team," said Mike Attan, teacher and team mentor. "And they interact with our sponsors and letting them know what we have going on. The kids put together a newsletter at every single competition."

Forty-thousand people from 33 countries came to watch.  It wasn't easy. The three matches that happened weren't all cake walks.  

"We came into the first match with a pretty definitive loss," said Fidler. "But we knew that we could come back from it, we just had to play the game like we knew how to, so that second win felt great but it all came down to the final match, of course. It was like a movie and had to go to the third." 

"When you lose a match it's like you've lost the world," said Ronald Arscheem, physics teacher. "And then you win two matches and you're on top of the world. So it goes up and down. We have just under 70 people on the team and you can see the waves go through their emotions." 

The waves led them to joy and the taste of success. Champions once again. All eyes on Alexa and the brilliant minds in Utica.