Robots took over the Goode Auditorium at the Kern County Fairgrounds Saturday as high school students from Bakersfield and surrounding areas competed in the fourth annual Streets of Bakersfield Robotics Extravaganza.

“I’ve always been good at math, so engineering has always been attractive to me,” Bakersfield High School student Tim Rossi said. “And this is the most interesting part of engineering in my opinion.”

The event is part of a series of tournaments supported by VEX Robotics Inc. and the Robotics Education and Competition Foundation. Each year VEX develops a game and guidelines that students must follow. This year, the game was called Nothing But Net and required robots to launch balls into a goal.

“It’s great to see all of the kids having fun out there doing their thing,” event partner Tom Henderson said.

In the four years the event has been held, Henderson said “this is the biggest tournament we have ever done.” A total of 62 teams competed this year, while last year about 50 teams participated. In its first year, Henderson said only six teams competed.

“It’s definitely good growth,” he said. “But this is as big as we are going to get ... while we can handle more, it is way too tight in timing and it’s hard on the kids.”

State playoffs for the tournament will also be held at the Kern County Fairgrounds on March 5, Henderson said.

For many students, the draw to robotics seemed natural.

“Freshman year we went into the engineering club and were asked what we wanted to do,” Rossi said. “We said we wanted to play with robots.”

Rossi is now a senior at BHS and hopes to attend the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York after graduating.

Kyle Wesbrook, vice president of the Frontier High School Robotics Club, said he was always interested in robots.

“I liked driving drones and stuff, so it made sense,” he said.

The BHS team began working on its robot a week after school ended last year and has put hundreds of hours into the design and functionality of its robot, BHS student Isaiah Kroeker said.

“It’s most rewarding when you win,” Rossi said. “The most frustrating is when it (the robot) stops working and you don’t know why.”

Wesbrook echoed Rossi’s frustration.

“The lowest point is when a robot fails to do its job in the middle of a match, but when it works it feels great because you feel like you did it. You built all this stuff,” Wesbrook said. “There is definitely a rush of energy and I’m rooting for the robot.”

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