A team of five Centennial High School students will participate in a world robotics challenge after placing among the top teams in last weekend's state VEX Robotics Competition in Santa Clara.
The five students -- sophomores Brenden Wheeler, Cassidy Elwell and Desi Boles, and juniors Tim Kenney and Justin Reed -- competed in the three-day competition against 72 other high school teams, including two others from Centennial and one from Highland.
Calling themselves Team Cyber Hawk, the 16-year-olds started assembling, programming and practicing with their robot this summer, spending four to five hours working on it weekly, said Colin Smith, the high school's Engineering Club's adviser.
Smith estimated the youths spent 100 hours preparing for the competition, which required students' robots to complete a series of challenges called "Toss Up."
The game required the robots to pick up, move and throw balls from one side of a 12-foot-by-12-foot ring to the other while defending their side against other robots.
"It's amazing with the dedication and problem-solving and design and ingenuity they've shown," said Smith, who teaches physics and engineering at Centennial. He said it's the second year Bakersfield students have been involved in the competition.
"We are all new to it and to see how much they've grown each year is nice."
Elwell said her team's succeess was exciting after all the work on the robot. She hopes to be a computer engineer.
For Kenney, the Engineering Club is in line with his desire to be a software engineer.
"When I first joined the engineering program I always wanted to do coding," he said.
The parts for the robot, which cost an estimated $1,250, were purchased for the high school by Chevron. They are made by VEX Robotics Design, said Nancy McIntyre, a representative for the Texas-based Robotics Education and Competition Foundation that organizes the competitions.
In addition to the youths' success, Tom Henderson, of Bakersfield, was chosen by the foundation as volunteer of the year. He is an event partner and volunteers by helping organize the tournaments while recruiting schools to create teams.
The VEX Robotics World Championships will be held April 23-26 in Anaheim. The Centennial team is still raising funds to go to the event. More than 800 teams from every state and 31 countries will participate in the competition.
"It's great to get kids involved in science and technology and engineering," Henderson said. "It's fun and they build and play and are having a blast, and along the way they learn some things."