Centennial and Bakersfield high schools formed an alliance to win a state championship.
That sounds unbelievable, but it’s true … when it comes to robotics.
The Centennial and Bakersfield alliance was part of a huge day for high school robotics teams from Kern County at the VEX Robotics Region 3 State Championships at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on March 4.
Centennial, Bakersfield, North and McFarland qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championships April 25-27 in Dallas.
Thirty-five teams vied for seven qualifying spots at the state event. Centennial qualified three teams, including individual victories for excellence and design.
This is the first time Kern High School District teams have won the state tournament since KHSD teams began competing in 2012, said Colin Smith, who teaches physics and engineering at Centennial.
“We’ve gotten so close a number of times to winning the state championship,” Smith said. “I didn’t realize how much excitement would come out for them win the tournament.”
McFarland’s robotics team earned the top seed after preliminary round competition and chose San Luis Obispo High to form an alliance for bracket playoffs of 16 alliances. Centennial had the third seed. The “Cyber Hawks” had their choice among the teams, including eight of their own, but picked Bakersfield.
The teams are very familiar with each other. They’ve been competing against each other in the Kern Robotics League, which also includes McFarland and North.
Bakersfield coach/robotics teacher Don Wilmot and Smith conduct the Kern Robotics League.
The Centennial-Bakersfield alliance upset the No. 2 seed and then beat the top-seeded McFarland-SLO alliance for the state title. The finalists qualified for the VEX Robotics World Championships.
North qualified in the Robot Skills category.
Wilmot said he wasn’t surprised Centennial chose Bakersfield to form an alliance.
“We had been talking to them during the day,” he said. “We had a feature on our robot that they wanted. That would be a piece that would help them score more.”
The teams competed in a game called “Spin Up,” which includes robots shooting discs into a goal among other actions to earn points.
Christian Mills, a Centennial High sophomore, said the Cyber Hawks had confidence in Bakersfield.
“”It’s kind of cool to see them work with us,” Mills said. “We know who they are and we know their playing style. We really know a lot about each other.”
After winning, the teams ate together at In-N-Out as a celebration, Mills said.
Middle school teams from Fruitvale, Norris, Olive Knolls and Downtown School also qualified for the world championships after competing in the state competition March 5 at Cal Poly SLO, Smith said. The middle school world championships are April 27-29 in Dallas.
Centennial students mentored the middle school teams, Smith said. The Centennial students also helped restart the middle school robotics program after a two-year absence due to COVID, Smith said.
In the state middle-school tournament, an alliance of two Fruitvale robots beat an alliance of one robot from Fruitvale and one from Olive Knolls.